Rotary Club Bali Nusa Dua (RCBND) is inviting all interested parties to join their activities to assist people living with HIV/AIDS and raise public awareness about the illness.
In the HIV/AIDS project, which started last year, the club is working closely with local NGO Kerti Praja Foundation to address sexual and reproductive health concerns among the public, as well as high-risk groups, including female sex workers and high-risk men.
Ari Murti, the member of RCBND who heads this project, shared with Bali Daily recently that the club still needed more assistance to achieve the project’s goals of providing lifesaving milk for potentially HIV-positive infants and to ensure sustainable and comprehensive healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families through local NGO-run clinics.
Assistance is also being sought to train counselors, who will play a vital role in early case detection.
“Our activity to date is facilitating workshops to train midwives on HIV prevention, particularly from mother to child. The pilot project of 20 midwives was very successful and well received, it has become an ongoing program, with more than 130 midwives across Bali trained to date,” Ari said.
Breast milk substitute is also provided to babies born to HIV positive mothers to reduce the risk of infection being passed on to the babies. Each baby is provided with Rp 300,000 (US$31) per month for formula milk until they reach the age of 18 months.
“If the infected mother is taking ARV during pregnancy and gives birth by caesarian section and is not breastfeeding, the baby has a 80 to 90 percent of chance of not getting infected,” said Ari, the author of Outcast, From Sex Trade To HIV/AIDS.
The group also provides scholarships for HIV positive children from challenged socioeconomic backgrounds to ensure they have access to education. Currently, they are helping 12 children in Badung and Denpasar in kindergarten and elementary school (up to second grade).
To help empower HIV positive women, they facilitate income generating programs to help them become financially independent and able to support themselves and their families, as well as providing social and mental support to improve their quality of life.
According to Ari, the epidemic in Indonesia was unique and challenging for many reasons, being fuelled by many factors, including risky behavior that continued to go unaddressed, a clandestine sex industry — where unsafe sex and low condom use remained an issue, as well as many unsafe needle practices in intravenous drug user communities.
“Other factors have also worsened the epidemic, such as concurrent and multiple sexual relationships in combination with a tradition of extra or pre-marital sex, little intervention for HIV positive mothers wanting healthy babies, and also the big problem of stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV/AIDS who need spiritual and mental support.”
“Overall, this project seeks to ensure a safe and healthy future amid many challenges in tackling HIV/AIDS,” said the women, who recently received a governor special service award for humanitarian projects from Rotary International.
Ari wished that providing the appropriate mental support would help sex workers return to the right path in accordance with their beliefs. “This could at least prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS and some chains of infection could be removed.”
She and her friends regularly organized voluntary enlightenment meetings, which were received with enthusiasm by sex worker groups.
“We are in a race against time and with the virus, not only in Indonesia but all over the world. We race to stop the spread of contamination, which is increasing exponentially every year. I believe that we should combine medical efforts with spiritual ones to counter the advance of this enemy.”
Dewa Nyoman Wirawan, chairman of Kerti Praja Foundation, said that HIV/AIDS cases among sex workers were very troubling.
“Before 2000, the proportion of HIV positive within this group was less than 1 percent, now the figure has risen to above 18 percent.”
“Most annoying is the fact that the majority of our society treats them as rubbish, scum and enemies. They are judged and condemned. In the first place, the women were infected by men, and most of them became sex workers due to poverty,” he said.
To raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS, RCBND also holds gatherings and conducts counseling for disadvantaged communities.