Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hitting The Streets To Combat HIV/AIDS

Hey guys, i'm back! :)  As i told you in my previous blog, start for now i will also post my featured article in my blog. Last December, remembering The December 1st of HIV/AIDS day, i wrote an article for Khabar Southeast Asia. Here it is.  

Zero deaths, zero discrimination, and zero infections: student activists have clear goals for combating HIV/AIDS in Indonesia. Students from Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta are active participants in the university's efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and to care for those afflicted by the devastating disease. One of Indonesia's major universities, Atma Jaya Jakarta conducts research on the social aspects of HIV and AIDS. Its researchers have developed a number of HIV and AIDS interventions for drug users and for children in Jakarta.

Students held a series of events to mark World AIDS Day this year, marching 4.8km from the Atma Jaya campus to the Hotel Indonesia Traffic Circle on November 25th, and screening a movie about AIDS on November 8th and 9th. On December 1st, World AIDS Day, students raised two million rupiah ($1,243) for AIDS prevention by hosting a stand-up comedy show. "We gave the funds we collected to KIOS Atma Jaya, a medical care group focusing on AIDS prevention and awareness, particularly for drug addicts who use needles and their sexual partners," said Biganta Prestika, 20, the chairman of the World AIDS Day event."Our three major targets are getting to zero discrimination, getting to zero AIDS-related deaths, and getting to zero infected persons," said Lucky Andreas, 22, a member of the university's AIDS Care Team (Tim Peduli AIDS or TPA). 

Student activists

The university has had a student organisation dedicated to fighting AIDS since 1994. Started by medical students, it now encompasses young people studying economics, business administration, and law. "TPA was founded with the goal of facilitating student consultation on the issue of HIV/AIDS and drugs, as well as to promote solidarity among students, especially to eliminate discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS," said Bhakti Bima, 21, the head of the group.

"We also focus on disseminating information about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and its prevention," Bhakti said. Certain aspects of Indonesian culture complicate prevention, he said. "We tend to be shy and are afraid to buy condoms before marriage because free sex in Indonesia is considered inappropriate and does not fit our culture. Additionally, sex education is limited because it is still perceived as 'taboo' and embarrassing."
Shifting populations
Natasya Evalyne Sitorus, a 29-year-old HIV/AIDS activist and Atma Jaya graduate, said the populations effected by the disease in Indonesia have shifted from year to year. "From 2006-2008, the highest transmission trend was among injecting drug users. But in 2010-2012 the trend changed again with the transmission predominantly through heterosexuals," she stated."In 2011-2012, new infections spread rapidly among housewives. This does not mean that they were engaged in risky behaviours such as unsafe sex and multiple sexual partners. Housewives can get infected from their husbands, and not only that, when a mother is pregnant, their child also has a chance to be infected," she explained.
According to Natasya, young adults from 15-24 also represent a large population of people living with HIV/AIDS (Orang Hidup Dengan HIV/AIDS or ODHA). Natasya offered some advice on preventing HIV/AIDS transmission. "Stay away from risky behaviours such as multiple sexual partners and having sex without protection (condoms). Do not inject drugs, and if you do, do not share needles with others," she explained.
Armed with education
Asked how to help combat HIV/AIDS, Natasya stressed the need for education. "It is important to find the correct information as much as possible. In addition to protecting yourself, it can also help eliminate the stigma and discrimination in society," she said. "Also, many NGOs, foundations, and programs provide opportunities for those who want to help both in the form of volunteering and fundraising."
Hartati Subagyo, a 45-year-old employee of Jakarta's Department of Health, said the government must do its part by continuing to ensure that public services such as health care and education are provided free of discrimination to ODHA. "We have been improving within the last decade. We are hoping in the future that more treatments and more facilities will support ODHA. As you may know, HIV/AIDS now can be treated," she said. "However, the government effort will be powerless without participation from NGOs, education and religious institutions. We have to work together in all sectors," she added. 

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