After Strong Opposition, Indonesia Axes Plans to Implant Microchips in AIDS Patients

An Indonesian province beleaguered by a spiraling HIV infection rate scrapped plans to implant microchips in those with full-blown AIDS, following strong opposition from government officials, health workers and rights activists.

Papua's parliament agreed Tuesday to drop a section of the health development bill that supported the tagging of some HIV patients with small computer chips inserted beneath the skin — part of extreme efforts to monitor the disease, lawmaker Weinard Watori said.

The provincial parliament will wrap up discussions on other issues in the bill, including measures to fight the spread of HIV, by the end of the week, Watori said.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country and has one of Asia's fastest growing HIV rates, with up to 290,000 infections out of 235 million people, fueled mainly by intravenous drug users and prostitution.

But Papua, the country's easternmost and poorest province with a population of about 2 million, has been hardest hit. Its case rate of almost 61 per 100,000 is 15 times the national average, according to internationally funded research, which blames lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.

Local health workers and AIDS activists had called the tagging plan "abhorrent" and argued the best way to tackle Papua's epidemic was through increased spending on sexual education and condom use.

"It's a violation of human rights," Papua's Deputy Governor Alex Hasegem said of the proposal.