Taking Extra Miles to Battle HIV/AIDS
a typical Puskesmas up in Papua highland
where service is available for HIV test.
It takes more than just information, patience and time to battle HIV/AIDs. For some people it also requires a personal sacrifice. For Wamena-based pastor Yoram Yokobi, there was no choice when he turned down offers to run for political office in his hometown, Jayawijaya area, Papua. As a second generation of first Christian families, he has even taken a break from his pastoral duties to focus on battling HIV/AIDs.
“…I felt that the one main of cause of depletion of my people was HIV/AIDs. It was very hard at first, giving up my position as a pastor and the status, the stipend that accompanied that. Apart from this, people saw this as a step down in society as I was dealing with ‘dirty and sinful people’”, Yoram said of the stigma attached to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Papua and West Papua are home to 20% of Indonesia’s HIV-infected people, despite its small population compared to the rest of the country. Scarce health facilities and a widely spread population makes working to improve the health and HIV services in the two provinces very challenging.
Before setting up his own NGO Yukemdi, Yoram worked with other groups and KPA
(Komisi Penanggulangan AIDS) to approach the community. Getting support from religious and tribal leaders was the key to reach the people in villages scattered at the feet of Jayawijaya Mountain.
And things began to change.
“People have faith in us and trust us to work with them closely. More people are involved in our program; we have a volunteer in every village in Jayawijaya. More people know about HIV/AIDs so more people trust us to take them to testing centres.
Yukemdi is one of NGOs closely working with Australian Government under the Australia Indonesia Partnership for HIV (AIPH) that has been running from 2007. In his recent visit to Sorong, Manokwari and Papua the Australia’s Minister-Counsellor for Development Cooperation Jean-Bernard Carrasco highlighted the importance of working collaboratively across sectors as HIV is not just a health issue, it is a development issue affecting human capital and productivity in the region.