My first week of interning has been very interesting. I have been placed with one other Indonesian AIYEP participant, at YPKDS (Yayasan Peduli Kelompok Dukungan Sebaya) Makassar, an NGO that provides
support for people living with HIV/AIDS. The organization is part of a wider organization throughout Indonesia that is called Spiritia.
What exactly is HIV and AIDS?
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages your immune system so that your body becomes less effective at fighting off infection
and other diseases. Once you get HIV, you cannot get rid of it. However, there are effective treatments which can minimise the amount of HIV in your body and limit damage to your immune system — keeping you in good health (Australian Federation of Aids Organizations, 2015). A person recently diagnosed who is in the early stages of HIV infection can anticipate a life expectancy similar to their HIV-negative peers, through modern treatment.
What is AIDS?
If you don’t take HIV treatments, your immune system can become severely damaged so that you develop serious “opportunistic infections” and diseases that make you feel very ill or can be fatal. A person at this stage is described as having AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). As more people are diagnosed early in their illness and take modern, effective antiretroviral treatments, people rarely progress to AIDS in Australia any more (Australian Federation of Aids Organizations, 2015).
The organization YPKDS (Yayasan Peduli Kelompok Dukungan Sebaya) Makassar
The organization I have been working at has 4 management staff, and 24 support workers that mainly work at various hospitals and clinics (Puskesmas) providing support to people living with HIV or AIDS (ODHA- Orang hidup dengan HIV/ AIDS). Most of the support workers are also HIV positive. They provide peer support to clients who are HIV positive, especially to those who have been recently diagnosed. They act as a kind of role model, as they reassure clients who are HIV positive that they can live full lives. They also prescribe and monitor client’s medication.
The NGO also facilitates monthly support group sessions for people living with HIV/AIDS or for families, friends or partners of people who are HIV positive.
In the first few days of the placement we spent at the office meeting staff and joining meetings. We learnt that the governments plays a role in facilitating free HIV tests, and requiring people who are HIV positive to test for TB, and vice versa.
We also learn a lot about the stigma surrounding HIV aswell the different kind of support for people in LGBT communities. We have learnt that the general public has a lack of understanding about the difference between HIV and AIDS.
I have found this a similarity between Australia and Indonesia, as many Australians also have a lack of understanding about HIV and AIDS. For a definition of HIV and AIDS please see below at the end of this blog.
Our visit to local government clinic on Friday 27 of January
I was very impressed by the clinic we visited. The clinic is ‘GWL ramah’, gay, trans and bi friendly, and specializes in clients with TB and who are HIV positive. They have 5 different rooms for counseling, STD tests, TB monitoring, HIV testing, and methadone prescriptions. They provide counseling to patients before they take a HIV test, and if they are HIV positive they will be allocated a peer support worker from the NGO I am interning at. We learnt that the Indonesian government requires that everyone who is HIV positive gets a test for TB, and vice versa.
The Clinic has around 800 patients who are HIV positive. Because this clinic is particularly welcoming of diversity, they have some patients from villages in south Sulawesi who travel up to 10 hours every month to visit the clinic because they are accepted without stigma and discrimination.
All in all, it has been great getting an insight into an NGO in Indonesia that works with HIV clients, as well the opportunity to visit a clinic that specializes in patients who are HIV positive. I am looking forward to the next week where we will be visiting some different clinics and hospitals where the NGO’s support staff work.
- Madeleine Boyd, QLD