SEATTLE — In any country, people with HIV/AIDS face varying levels of harrowing stigma, regardless of their health status. In Indonesia, the stigma against people with HIV/AIDS is particularly detrimental to citizens’ livelihoods and quality of life. Individuals with HIV are often forced out of work, school, and living spaces due to their status, leaving many without permanent housing or a steady source of income. The discrimination and ostracism are difficult for any person to overcome, but it is particularly harmful to children that are largely dependent on others to survive.
In Indonesia, there are no government agencies or initiatives designed to help children with HIV/AIDS, leaving children who were orphaned and abandoned because of their HIV status particularly defenseless. Fortunately, a few Indonesia-based NGOs acknowledge the obstacles that face HIV-positive children and are working to provide them with services, shelter and treatment.
Lenetera Anak Pelangi (LAP) is based in Jakarta and cares for 85 Indonesian children with HIV. The organization offers a diverse range of services for HIV-positive children, ranging from medical support to advocacy.
At LAP, family is considered critical for children with HIV to progress medically and psychosocially, so the organization arranges home visits for children with HIV that live with their families or a caretaker.
The home visits mostly focus on nutritional support and hygiene, but there is also a counseling component that aims to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety that often accompany an HIV diagnosis. LAP seeks to counsel both children and parents, to increase the level of interpersonal support within a household and decrease stigma and ignorance about the virus.
LAP hopes to prevent particularly harmful outcomes of discrimination such as abandonment and neglect, which force some Indonesian children with HIV to seek new shelter.
Rumah Singgah Lentera, a small charity located in Surakata, takes in Indonesian children with HIV that were orphaned or rejected by their families or towns. Many of the children at Rumah Singgah Lentera were taken in when the Surakarta administration had to end their initiative to house children with HIV after protests from local villagers who ignorantly assumed that they would contract HIV from the orphans.
Of the 11 HIV positive children housed by the charity, all of their infections have progressed to AIDS, a direct effect of the negligence and lack of treatment the children experienced before entering the Rumah Singgah Lentera house. As a result, the charity has to pay for medicines aside from the basic drugs they receive from the city government, as well as every day costs like food, housing, clothes and education. Consistent support from donors and monetary aid from social agencies keep this much-needed charity afloat.
The Lentera Surakarta foundation provides similar services for a dozen children with HIV in Central Java. The children find a permanent home in the Lentera Surakarta shelter, in the midst of protest from Central Java residents. Lentera Surakarta also provides home visits for child residents of East Java.
The children who call the shelters of Lentera Surakarta and Rumah Singgah Lentera home have a better chance of adhering to treatment and, therefore, a better quality of life, but the discrimination and ignorance about HIV from many Indonesian adults remains:
“They’re scared of infections,” said Yunus Prasetyo of Sumah Singgah Lentera following a community education held by the charity, “We couldn’t understand because the doctor had explained to them…Who else would they believe if they don’t believe the doctor?” he said.
Hopefully, the advocacy and education efforts of organizations like LAP will increase the level of education surrounding HIV/AIDS and reduce the need for homeless shelters for the remaining 20,000 Indonesian children with HIV.
– Danielle Poindexter