Health minister apologises for saying HIV can be transmitted by ‘sneezing and sweating’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The ministry also issued posters wrongly claiming that the virus can be caught when swimming.

Indonesia’s health ministry has been forced to apologise for falsely claiming that HIV can be transmitted through a number of different ways.

The ministry apologised for a “printing error” that saw posters printed claiming HIV can be passed on through food, saliva, sweat, mosquito bites, swimming and even sneezing.

Health minister apologises for saying HIV can be transmitted by ‘sneezing and sweating’

Hundreds of the posters were placed over busy trains in the country’s capitol Jakarta at the weekend.

However, the posters – which actually meant to quash myths surrounding the virus – were swiftly removed after a public outcry saw thousands of commuters complain.

Senior ministry official Muhammad Subuh attempted to place the blame on the printing company. He claimed that they had missed out the word “not”, before failing to get approval from health officials.

“We have made a public apology and now the banners are being removed and replaced with the correct ones,” Subuh told AFP.

“They omitted the word ‘not,’ it was an honest mistake.”

Thousands took to Twitter to criticise the error, with many claiming that the government had “encouraged myths” around the virus.

HIV activist Fajar Jasmin tweeted that the move  was a “stupid, fatal mistake.”

An estimated 600,000 to 720,000 Indonesians are currently living with HIV.

An Indonesian province recently received criticism for introducing a harsh new law that re-introduces caning as a punishment for homosexuality – and it also applies to foreign tourists.

The brutal practise will begin in the Indonesian province of Aceh, as a law first passed in 2014 comes into effect this week.

The Aceh – the only part of the Asian nation which enforces Islamic Sharia law – has autonomous control over crime and punishment.

Health minister apologises for saying HIV can be transmitted by ‘sneezing and sweating’

The law states anyone engaging in homosexuality should be punished with 100 months in jail, 100 lashes, or a fine equivalent to 1,000 grammes of gold.

Homosexuality is legal in the rest of Indonesia, though the age of consent for gay sex is higher than for straight sex.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population – but outside of the Aceh, most practice a more moderate form of the faith.