A woman who is infected with HIV prepares her medicines in a shelter house in Jayapura, capital city of the Indonesian province of Papua.

© 2008 Reuters

(New York) - Lawmakers in Indonesia's Papua province should reject a bill that would require some people living with HIV to be implanted with microchips as part of efforts to monitor the spread of the disease, Human Rights Watch said today.

Papua, Indonesia's easternmost province, has an HIV-infection rate 15 times the national average in a country with one of Asia's fastest-growing epidemics. The bill, expected to be passed on a majority vote and enacted in January 2009, appears to be aimed at tracking sexually active people who have HIV/AIDS and prosecuting them if they are suspected of infecting others. According to lawmakers, the proposed bill would also allow the authorities to identify and ultimately punish "sexually aggressive," HIV-positive individuals.

"This misguided and abusive plan is an offense to everyone - living with HIV or not," said Joseph Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. "Being infected with HIV should not be a crime, and requiring people living with HIV to be implanted with microchips violates the rights to privacy and dignity in the most fundamental way."

UNAIDS has expressed concern that broad application of criminal law to HIV transmission risks undermining both public health and human rights. Laws that specifically criminalize transmission of HIV may drive people away from seeking HIV testing or disclosing their status to others, and they reinforce the stigma attached by some toward those who are HIV-positive. Prosecutions and convictions are likely to be disproportionately applied to members of marginalized groups, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs, groups often blamed for transmitting HIV.

"On the eve of World AIDS Day, these legislators are proposing a bill based on ignorance and discrimination," Amon said. "Papuan lawmakers should abandon this offensive legislation."