Embedded Surveilling of Indonesian AIDS Patients

Sexually transmitted diseases are a pox on the earth, but do we really need to single out the infected few for panopticonic surveilling?

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Flores Island, Indonesia

by Emma Dowson

White, red and black said the battered signpost at the summit of the Keli Mutu volcano, but the colourful crater lakes they pointed towards were still shrouded in cobwebs of early-morning mist. I watched as the rising sun tore the mist to swirls and tatters, gradually uncovering what looked like three giant inkwells set deep in the rocky mountainscape. They were filled with inky black, brilliant turquoise and pale green liquid.

“The lakes have changed colour so often during my lifetime,” said Amina Moe, our sprightly middle-aged guide, “no one bothers to alter the signposts any more.”

Keli Mutu’s chameleon act defies scientific explanation. It was eerily quiet as I stared at the black lake, still and mesmerizing as a glass eye, almost tempting me to believe, as the locals do, that these lakes contain the souls of the dead. Or perhaps it was just that the afterlife was something I’d contemplated often on the three-day journey across the remote Indonesian island of Flores towards Keli Mutu.

About Flores
Flores is 375 km long; the single potholed road which loops and snakes from one end of the island to the other, almost twice that length. Many sections have been swallowed up by earthquakes or monsoon floods. Buses which ply the route are held together with string, and loaded like exotic supermarket carts, with ripe fruit and meat so fresh it squealed or clucked. Passengers clutched rosary beads. Bus drivers, presumably trusting in divine protection, slalomed along knife-edge mountain ridges, halos of clove-scented cigarette smoke hovering above their heads.

Part of Nusa Tenggara, the island chain stretching east of Bali towards Australia, Flores is a skewed cocktail of lush paddy fields, arid plains, rugged hills and dense jungle. Vast volcanoes, fourteen of which are active, make Flores one of the most geological unstable places on earth. Shifts in scenery are sudden and dramatic, as if the landscape is being distorted by a fairground hall of mirrors.

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