Thursday, July 19, 2012

Papua doctor wants to microchip AIDS patients

Papua doctor wants to microchip AIDS patients

Infection rates in Papua are at least 15 times the national average. (AFP: Ahmad Zamroni)

HIV/AIDS is a real problem in the Indonesian province of Papua. Infection rates there are at least 15 times the national average and AusAID has projected that by 2025 up to 7 per cent of Papuans will have the disease - a figure comparable to some African countries.

But Dr John Manangsang, a member of the Papuan Provincial Parliament, thinks he has the answer: implanting computer microchips under the skin of Papuans with HIV/AIDs.

"This microchip idea is my own idea" Dr Manangsang said.

"Seeing that the number and spread of HIV in Papua is so high, I've been researching it and found online that microchips can be used in humans, so I am convinced that this can help us detect signals related to the spread of HIV in society."

Dr Manangsang's plan even made it on to the front page of one of Indonesia's leading English-language dailies, The Jakarta Post.

Brian Haill, of the Melbourne-based AIDS charity the Australian Aids Fund, saw the story online and says he is "appalled".

"My immediate response was how appalling is the timing of such a plan?" he said.

"In other words, we're only a week out from the global observance of World AIDS Day on December 1 and all of us in this AIDS area realise that it's the matter of stigma and discrimination that's turbo-charging the spread of the virus.

"This is the last sort of thing we want to hear about just now."

Dr Manangsang's understanding of how his microchipping scheme would work is confused to say the least.

He seems to think that the microchips, which he wants to plant in what he calls "sexually aggressive" people, would be linked to satellites and somehow send off alarms when an infected person has sex with an uninfected person.

But no such technology exists.

The secretary of Indonesia's National AIDS Commission, Dr Nafsiah Mboi, says Papua's Governor is unlikely to approve the bylaw even if it is passed by Papua's parliament.

"It's against human rights and we will never accept it," she said.

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