Friday, December 18, 2015

Filmmaker aims to dispel AIDS stigma in Papua


Filmmaker aims to dispel AIDS stigma in Papua

Sally Round, Radio New Zealand International - sally.round@radionz.co.nz
Wesley Kosai thought he had been cursed. The 34 year old from Wamena in Indonesia's Papua region had fallen ill and didn't know he'd contracted HIV.
He says for three years he suffered, losing half his body weight and staying captive in his own home for fear of being burnt alive because of his illness.

34 year old Wesley from Wamena is HIV positive, “I always encourage my friends to go to the hospital and take ARV so they can be healthy like me.”
Photo: Andri Tambunan / iampositif.org

Andri Tambunan has documented Wesley Kosai's survival and those of other people living with HIV/AIDS in a film which seeks to educate people in Indonesia's easternmost region about the disease.
At the end of a high school class in Sorong City, the students walk to the front of the room and press the hand of their teacher to their foreheads in a traditional gesture.

Their teacher is 31 year old Ibu Ratna and she is also living with HIV.
She assumed she had contracted the disease from her husband who was also HIV positive.
Determined to survive for the sake of her daughter, she searched out medicine and has been taking antiretrovirals since 2010.

31 year old teacher school teacher Ibu Ratna is HIV positive, "Although I am HIV positive my colleagues at school continue to give me support."
Photo: Andri Tambunan / iampositif.org
Andri Tambunan films everyday life for Ibu Ratna and shows her managing her illness and the acceptance she gets from her colleagues, family and friends.
But acceptance is not the case for the vast majority of people living with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia's easternmost region, especially those Papuans who live in remote villages far from medicine and hospitals.
"I met a young man who, when he opened his status, he was kicked out of his family, he was attacked by some people in the communityI talked to another woman who people were just trying to kick her out from her house with an axe and machetes. I have people who were afraid to be burned alive.” said the Jakarta-based documentary-maker.
The Papua region suffers an HIV/AIDs rate twenty times higher than the national average and three quarters of those with the disease are indigenous Papuans.
20 year old Meri from Pugima is HIV positive, "We should not reject people with hiv but instead give them support and encouragement."
Photo: Andri Tambunan / iampositif.org

Inequalities, remoteness and a lack of information in the local language contribute to the high rate.
"Papuans, you know, they have the highest infant mortality, the highest maternal mortality, the highest illiteracy, so they're already at a disadvantage in the beginning and then you have this disease, and most of that is because of the lack of information. People don't know how to get help, or they don't know what HIV is or how it's spread," said Mr Tambunan.
Mr Tambunan has been researching and filming in Papua since 2009.
He says he it took months to gain the trust of those who appeared in the films and that's despite advancements in Papua over the past few years.
"The stigma and the fear of discrimination is still the biggest obstacle. So it doesn't matter if there's medicines now which are more readily available. If people are afraid to get tested, if people are afraid to seek care they're not going to do it. "
Mr Tambunan has set up a website and is distributing information to NGOs to help educate people in Papua because the continued stigma around HIV/AIDs means his material is not being broadcast widely despite approval from the authorities in Indonesia.

Wesley from Wamena shares his story about being HIV positive on iamPositif.org 

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