Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Brazen new world

Talk about chipping away at human rights: lawmakers in Papua, an Indonesian province, want to implant microchips in HIV-positive people.

Yep, you read right. Apparently, the government is fed up with its inability to control the country’s AIDS epidemic so the parliament’s health committee came up with this scheme to track those who are infected and stop them from transmitting the virus to others. Oh, and they’re also calling for mandatory testing of the general population — about 2.4% of whom are believed to be HIV-positive.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed and the bill was turned down, but no doubt the parliamentarians will come up with more boneheaded schemes.

At one point, they also apparently dicussed tattooing those infected. What would the tattoos say, I wonder? Something along the lines of: “I live in a fascist state”?


  1. Report this comment

    Mr. Gunn said:

    Stop reporting on this stuff…I don’t want to give the crazies running the country over here any ideas. On the other hand, they’re doing pretty well coming up with dumb ideas already, so maybe it doesn’t hurt.

  2. Report this comment

    Patxi Andion said:

    Well, easy for you to say. I caught the virus from a despicable guy despite using protection. If he had been tagged, this wouldn’t have happened to me.

    Think about it: aren’t some criminals tagged? And isn’t it a criminal act to knowingly transmit such a terrible disease to another person? What makes it different for HIV carriers?

  3. Report this comment

    apoorva said:

    Patxi, I’m sorry you had such a horrible thing happen to you. But I don’t think it’s morally defensible to tag an entire group of people—who are already suffering—to prevent one or two who might have corrupt intentions. Tagging HIV-positive people is not all that far from making all Jewish people wear gold stars. Don’t forget that under this rule, you would be tagged too.

  4. Report this comment

    Patxi Andion said:

    Thanks for your support Apoorva. However, I would not compare the Jews to those who have AIDS and knowingly transmit it. I think a more useful comparison would be with pedophiles. Isn’t, in fact, the case that in some countries there are registries of pedophiles? This would be a different kind of registry.

    The other thing is that you are visualizing the tattoo as something people would carry in the forehead. The way I think about it is more like the contraceptive patch. You wear it discreetly near your private parts, but your sex partner knows it’s safe to have sex with you in reproductive terms. One could imagine the HIV tattoo near people’s genitalia such that only the “concerned parties” would know about it.

  5. Report this comment

    apoorva said:

    Sorry, Patxi, but I still don’t agree. There’s a big difference between registering pedophiles (which I also have some problems with, but that’s another debate) and tagging all HIV-positive people, even though they have never, and probably would never, commit a crime. I can’t condone preemptively punishing an entire group for the crimes of a few. What’s next? tagging people with herpes? and then syphilis? and gonorrhoea? and HPV? That’s quite a slippery slope you’re advocating…