Indonesian minister sparks anger with HIV comments

Indonesian minister sparks anger with HIV comments
Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel (center) speaks at a meeting at The Jakarta Post’s offices in Dec 2014.

JAKARTA - Indonesia's trade minister sparked anger Wednesday after saying that second-hand clothes could spread HIV as he campaigned to stop the import of used garments.

Rachmat Gobel was quoted in local media saying used clothes could cause "skin diseases, HIV. It is true, we have seen a lab result".

Indonesian officials have expressed alarm at what they say is a flood of cheap, second-hand clothing flooding the country, saying that it is damaging the local textile industry.

Gobel quickly apologised after his comments were widely reported, posting on Twitter he had meant to say that "wearing used clothes can transmit many kinds of diseases".

But this did little to calm the public's anger, with Twitter user Siwiestu saying that it was "such a shame that a highly educated man... still misunderstands HIV".

"Oh dear, did the minister go to school?" commented Siti Umayah, adding: "His statement is embarassing".

Gobel, a wealthy businessman, has been trade minister since October in the new government of President Joko Widodo.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS, is mainly transmitted via sexual incourse or drug addicts sharing equipment. Since 1981, about 78 million people have been infected by HIV, according to UN figures.

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