Indonesia Introducing a Male Pill Contraceptive

The country is aiming to reduce its population growth and is enlisting men to swallow a pill—and their pride. But could the product put Indonesia's sexual health at risk?

birth control pill dispenser

Indonesia has announced plans to roll out a pill-based male contraceptive this year, in an effort to enlist the country's male population as more active participants in family planning agendas. According to some estimates, the country's population growth has gradually decreased from 1.49 in 2000 to 1.26 in 2005 and some say the country has already or will soon reach 1.1—either way, pushing male birth control pills marks the latest effort to reach ever lower numbers.

The contraceptive was derived from a local ingredient called "gandarusa" and is being launched as an alternative, herbal product.

The launch is sure to raise eyebrows about the validity of such a drug—research on pill-based male contraceptives has been in the works for years, but it remains to be seen if and how Indonesia's product really works.

The pill, while helping to involve men in reducing unwanted pregnancies, does not, however, reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS. So while Indonesia aims to tackle one challenge, they could, in fact, be opening a whole other Pandora's Box.

The UN has found that "Indonesia faces the looming threat of a major HIV epidemic."

“One out of nine Indonesian men uses sex services. Those men have partners—male and female—who face risk of infection," National AIDS Commission, Nafsiah Mboi, told the UN-affiliated news wire, IRIN.

While HIV is often concentrated among high-risk groups such as sex workers, the disease is often transmitted back into the general population, placing countries such as Indonesia at risk for a widespread epidemic.

"The virus is taking hold of the general population in Bali as some 100,000 clients—mostly heterosexual Indonesian men—have sex with an estimated 6,000 sex workers and then go home to their 70,000-odd partners," reports IRIN.

What this means is that if the new Indonesian pill takes off, there may be less incentive for men to use condoms, as sexual health awareness is low, and HIV could spike.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user blmurch]

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