New Dad Living with HIV and AIDS 2020 Virtual experience

By July 26, 2020 Learning, Newsroom, Regional

Contributor:
Nurdiyanto, Yayasan Kasih Suwitno


My name is Nurdiyanto, but most people know me as Antonio. I currently work as Case Manager at Yayasan Kasih Suwitno, a non-governmental organization for HIV response in Indonesia. On a day-to-day basis, I assist people living with HIV (PLHIV) at our facilities Ruang Carlo Clinic at St. Carolus Hospital and Globalindo Clinic – both strategically located at the Jakarta metropolitan area. As PLHIV myself, the work that I do is not merely a job, but almost like a true calling to serve. It has become my life’s purpose.

I am married to my wife, Chani, who is also PLHIV and we work at the same organization. We were married on World AIDS Day 2017, blessed with our baby boy, just born one month ago with HIV negative status. We are an openly proud seroconcordant couple (both partners are of the same HIV status) who are committed to advocate for the wellness of our community.

Recently I attended the AIDS 2020 virtual conference. It was my second participation, first was the AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I managed to obtain free scholarships for both conferences. The experience in each conference was certainly different, but both were indeed very valuable for me. What’s even more special is that my wife also received a scholarship in this year’s conference.

As AIDS 2020 went virtually, I was able to participate comfortably at home with my wife. But time difference has certainly become an issue. Many sessions started late at night in my local time. I use the fixed-dose combination – which contains Efavirenz – for my treatment and I take it regularly during the evening. It made me dizzy and sleepy at times, hence less focus to follow through the sessions. I know that the organizer provided relays of the events, but I’d say the enthusiasm is quite different. It’s more interactive to watch it live, where we could ask direct questions to the speakers.

The other burdening issue was internet connection. I don’t have Wi-Fi at home. Watching simultaneously with an unstable connection was quite challenging. I believe many other people were faced with this similar issue at community level. I can also see much lower attendance towards the end of the conference. Maybe this is the drawback of a virtual conference, whereas in conventional conferences people are more committed as they are physically attending the venue on a specific duration of time. But I like the idea that the virtual conference allows me to instantly move between sessions as I see fit. Based on my experience during AIDS 2018, I have to walk from one room to another, sometimes in such a long distance in a big venue. 

Many of the sessions in AIDS 2020 incorporate COVID-19 responses. It’s good because it’s initiating cross learning among nations to this relatively new pandemic that we still know so little about. There were plenty of other topics that interested me, particularly things related to innovations like the advancement of long-acting injectable antiretrovirals for HIV treatment. AIDS 2020, like its predecessor, allows me to broaden my networking. I happened to meet a fellow Indonesian, who’s a Ph.D candidate in San Francisco, USA. He asked me to take part in an educational HIV AIDS short documentary as part of his dissertation.

AIDS 2020 virtual is, of course, cannot be compared with the conventional AIDS 2018. The euphoric energy when you visit a large gathering and be able to meet different people from across the globe is certainly an indescribable feeling beyond words. I still remember distinctly when I visited APCOM’s booth during AIDS 2018, where I met Dede Oetomo, the Chairperson of APCOM Regional Advisory Board, and other APCOM staff. I was able to get to know more about the organization through live interaction, same thing for poster presentations where I could ask direct questions to the presenters who usually standby on site. Not to mention the many great souvenirs and everlasting mementos of tons of photo snapshots which I managed to keep during the conference. Watching people speak in front of a laptop – almost like attending a regular online meeting – is just simply not on par with all those fun-filled moments.