Blogging to Raise Awareness of AIDS
Tanggal: Monday, 26 December 2011
The Jakarta Post, December 25, 2011.
International AIDS Day was Dec. 1, but for the country’s HIV/AIDS bloggers, the effort to end discrimination of people living with the disease doesn’t stop there.
AusAid, the Australian government’s overseas aid program, along with the National AIDS Prevention Commission (KPAN) and online news portal VivaNews recently held a blogging competition to combat the stigma of HIV and AIDS.
The three organizations held a workshop on Dec. 20 on how to blog about HIV/AIDS. Three bloggers were also recognized in an awards ceremony, each going home with a prize and a story to tell.
Zulvina Anom, a 27-year-old who lives in Malang, East Java, has been blogging on her Web site manggistropis.blogspot.com for the past year, opining on books, films and social issues.
“I was an activist for a few AIDS organizations in Malang,” Vina said in explaining her decision to enter the HIV/AIDS blogging competition. “I also assisted a sex worker in Malang for a year.”
The Mojokerto-born woman placed second.
The first-place winner of the competition was Lingga Tri Utama, who blogs at galinkholic.blogspot.com and studies at Gajah Mada University. Lingga, who is majoring in psychology, won the competition with his essay “Melawan Mitos HIV dan AIDS” (“Fighting the myth of HIV and AIDS”).
In his winning blog post, Lingga, who was in Kuala Lumpur during the awards ceremony, discusses meeting two HIV-positive women at an AIDS panel. Participants were invited to ask questions, but no one, including Lingga, could bring themselves to question the women and instead sat in embarrassed silence.
Lingga describes the myths that persist surrounding HIV-positive people, including that all who are infected are “naughty,” and talks about a friend who has the virus.
“We can not just wait; we must discuss HIV and AIDS today. It requires a process and an effort by the public to change their ideas about misleading myths, to get the right information and act and behave appropriately,” he wrote on his blog.
Rendy Djauhari, the senior public affairs officer at AusAID Indonesia, said the program received 200 submissions for the contest before narrowing the field down to 10 finalists.
“After we chose 10 finalists, we invited them all to Bali, where they met with some HIV/AIDS NGOs that AusAID works with,” he said.
For three days in Bali, the 10 finalists discussed HIV/AIDS with NGO staff and visited popular tourist spots and gay clubs to meet people living with HIV/AIDS.
“I think Bali is lucky. Because it’s a tourist destination, the stigma is not as strong as it is in remote areas of Indonesia,” Vina said.
Underdeveloped areas are not likely to have proper facilities to care for people with HIV/AIDS, Vina said. In her winning essay, Vina criticizes the government for not providing adequate support to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“In remote areas, stigma toward HIV/AIDS victims is particularly strong because people aren’t exposed to the outside world and because of religious taboos,” Vina said.
Jombang, a city in East Java that is known for its Islamic boarding schools, is particularly hostile to people with HIV/AIDS, Vina said.
The third-place winner was Siswanto, a former reporter at the Tempo newspaper who is now a corporate communications graduate student at Paramadina University. Siswanto has written on his blog singkatcerita.blogspot.com for six years. He writes about his experiences as a journalist and as his opinions on various issues. He joined the competition because he has a friend is HIV positive.
“My friend was so depressed after getting HIV, but he has managed to rise up and become an AIDS activist,” Siswanto said.
He hopes his friend’s story will inspire many people living with HIV/AIDS to speak out in the face of discrimination.
“Even though these are not my personal stories, I think it’s important to share these experiences with the public,” he said.
Siswanto says people with HIV/AIDS are open to sharing their stories. In approaching such people in Bali, Siswanto encouraged them to speak up so their stories might inspire others to share their experiences.
“After I encouraged them, they are much more open to talking to me,” he said.
In his discussions, Siswanto learned that people with HIV/AIDS did not like it when writers included statistics about the disease.
“They want us to write about the causes of AIDS and how to prevent it from spreading, because many people still don’t know or understand,” he said. “Numbers only make people more scared of AIDS,” Siswanto said.
He said HIV/AIDS victims wanted the media to write about them beyond the big international AIDS events.
“Most importantly, they want encouraging stories about people with HIV/AIDS in order to lessen the stigma,” he added.
Enda Nasution, a veteran blogger who spoke at the workshop, said blogs could not provide people with everything they needed to know about HIV/AIDS, which is why parents and family are still a key factor in informing them about HIV/AIDS.
“It is no replacement for parents’ assistance in educating children about this issue,” he said.