Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Indonesia HIV-Aids 'spreading through sex'

By Karishma Vaswami
BBC News, Jakarta

An Indonesian Muslim protester holds a placard during an AIDS/HIV campaign in Jakarta
Some Islamic groups blame the spread of HIV-Aids on un-Islamic activities

The number of HIV-Aids cases in Indonesia is rising, according to the government in Jakarta.

And UN officials say it is spreading far more quickly through sexual intercourse rather than drug use, which they say is a cause for alarm.

The latest figures show there are at least 290,000 people in Indonesia infected with HIV.

Recent data shows over 18,000 people have the disease - and that number has jumped from last year.

The virus first started spreading amongst drug addicts.

But officials from organisations such as the UN programme on HIV-Aids, UNAIDS, say it is sex which is now the primary cause of infection in the country.

Condom ambassador

That is worrying because, as the group points out, far more people have sex than take drugs.

In the world's most populous Muslim nation, trying to find a solution for this epidemic can often be a challenging task.

Some Islamic groups have blamed the spread of Aids on what they consider un-Islamic activities - such as pre-marital sex and prostitution.

They want the government to implement conservative Muslim laws which would ban what they see as immoral acts.

The government is doing what it can to stem the spread of HIV-Aids in Indonesia.

Recently the National Aids Commission appointed Julia Perez, a popular Indonesian model and actress, as its condom ambassador in an attempt to encourage more young people to use condoms.

But Aids activists say promoting condom use is a huge challenge in Indonesia as there is strong resistance from religious and conservative groups.

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