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Hapless trade minister Rahmat scorned for saying used clothes transmit HIV

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2015

Jakarta A health advocacy group has poured scorn on Rahmat Gobel after the hapless trade minister said he had decided to ban the import of used clothes because the garments could transmit the HIV virus.

Ayu Octariani of Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC) said that Rahmat's statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV/AIDS.

"Let's not talk about educating the public just yet," Ayu said in a statement on Wednesday. "Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there's still a misconception about HIV/AIDS."

Ayu said Rahmat's demonstrably ludicrous public comments proved that Minister of Health and Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture as the head of National AIDS Commission (KPAN) must work even harder to educate people about HIV/AIDS.

"[Used clothes] could transmit HIV and skin diseases, it's true, we have tested it in a laboratory," Rahmat told journalists after having a work meeting with Commission III of the House of Representatives, which oversees legal affairs, on Tuesday.

It was not clear on Wednesday whether Rahmat will face calls to resign or if President Joko Widodo will fire him.

Rahmat, through his Twitter account @RachmatGobel, backtracked on his comments on Wednesday. "I do apologize. I am clarifying [my statement] wearing used clothes can transmit various kind of diseases, thank you for your correction," he wrote.

The incident is not the first time an Indonesian cabinet minister has been exposed as ill-informed on the issue. In 2010 former communications minister Tifatul Sembiring was criticized after he tweeted that homosexuals were to be blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Tifatul also turned the acronym for AIDS into "Akibat Itunya Dipakai Sembarangan", or "That's what you get for sticking it just anywhere."

Source: http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/news/hapless-trade-minister-rahmat-scorned-saying-used-clothes-transmit-hiv/.

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