Local authorities on the Indonesian island of Bali are quietly allowing needle exchange programs (NEPs) to operate as part of aneffort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C among injection drug users in the island nation, the Christian Science Monitor reported last week. Under Indonesian law, carrying a syringe without a prescription is a crime, but the threat of needle-borne disease is causing at least some government officials to look the other way. Using funds donated from the US and Australia for AIDS prevention, groups such as Yayasan Hati-Hati (http://ngo.or.id/hatihati/ -- Take Care Foundation in English) in Bali's capital city, Denpasar, are handing out hundreds of needles each week to drug users, the Monitor reported.

The Denpasar NEP is one of two currently operating with "government backing, if not explicit legal approval," according to the Monitor. Six more are set to open around the archipelago by year's end. NEP workers reported no problems from police and in one case were provided with identity cards by law enforcement authorities.

Indonesia, which according to all reports faces rising heroin use levels -- one study by non-governmental organizations in 2000 estimated that 25% of Jakarta residents were illegal drug abusers -- now quietly and unofficially join's Asia's most populous nations, China and India, in adopting harm reduction measures including NEPS to fight the transmission of blood-borne diseases.

Nevertheless, repressive prohibitionism remains popular with both governments and broad sectors of the population in Asia, as demonstrated by neighboring Thailand's recently concluded, murderous three-month "war on drugs" and by Indonesia's own harsh drug laws. Under Law 22/1997, the country's current drug law, 16 people have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking, and six face imminent execution after having appeals for pardons refused by President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

-- END --
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Issue #287, 5/16/03 Editorial: Coddling Kidnappers | Illinois Over-the-Counter Syringe Bill Passes House, Awaits Governor's Signature | Moves Continue to Win Freedom for Tulia 13 -- Congress to Take a Look | Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation Delayed -- Fears of United States, Discord in Government Cited | Alert and Clarification: Truth in Trials Act | Vote Now in Two Online Marijuana Decriminalization/Legalization Polls | World Social Thematic Forum to Address Drug Policy, Cartagena, Colombia, Next Month | Countdown to Fairness: Celebrity-Led Rockefeller Drug Law Protest Coming June 4th | Six-Year Anniversary of Esequiel Hernandez Shooting This Week | Newsbrief: Indonesia Quietly Supports Needle Exchanges | Newsbrief: US Functionaries Bluster at Bolivia | Newsbrief: US Invasion Liberates Iraqi Heroin, Cocaine Sales | Newsbrief: You Better Watch Yer Ass in Texas, Boy | Newsbrief: Utah Supreme Court Restricts Random Roadblocks, Again | Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Revisit Roadblock Ruling | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: New Jersey Drug Warrior Prescribes More Aggression | The Reformer's Calendar
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