Solidarity in Respecting Humanity: Reflection from 2019 HIV Hero award recipient of HERO Awards

By November 30, 2020 Advocacy, Learning, Newsroom

Acep Gates is a young gay Muslim Indonesian man living with HIV. He has documented his journey of living with HIV since his diagnosis in September 2018, using social media platforms to raise awareness, debunk myths and part a very personal face on the HIV epidemic in Indonesia.

I still remember when the day I opened the letter from my doctor two years ago said “I was diagnosed HIV+” my life was feeling ruin and it’s like the end. But then I realized HIV is treatable and as long as I take treatment, I would still live healthily and normally. Two weeks after I was diagnosed, I decided to make a video sharing my personal story as a person who lives with HIV. At that time, my purpose was not to educate or even inspire people, I just wanted to document myself and wanted to know the progress of my HIV treatment. But surprisingly my first video reached about 3.5 million views and since then, I was thinking I had to create more video sharing my personal life of living with HIV.

Since I have been active on social media, I found a lot of misunderstanding in the society, such as most people still thinking HIV is only an issue for LGBT people that is why when they found their LGBT people with HIV, they will say “Oh they are HIV+ because they are LGBT” but in fact as we know that everyone could be HIV+ regardless their sexual orientation, gender, religion, belief, race, nationality, age and so on. On the other hand, people here in Indonesia still lack of HIV information especially about U=U
(HIV Undetectable = Untransmittable, means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load—the amount of HIV in the blood—by taking and adhering to antiretroviral therapy as prescribed cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.)

In 2019 I made a simple survey asking my subscribers on YouTube about their understanding about U=U, I got about 3,000 respondents but only 3% said “yes” they know and understand about U=U. I think this case has correlation with most people here in Indonesia who always think that if we have HIV, we can’t get married and have kids, because they still believe their virus will be transmitting to their partner. In fact as long as our status is undetectable the virus within our body can’t be transmitted.

From the cases above, I can see that for “Global Solidarity Shared Responsibility” as the theme of World AIDS Day 2020, it must be understood also that in creating solidarity we have to get involve with all the elements of our society, such as individuals, organizations, corporates, governments and others to make a big collaboration. For sample, in Indonesia U=U campaign is not still small and we don’t have clear campaign about it yet. Whereas this campaign is very important in reducing the stigma toward PLHIV. By doing big collaborations each of us has roles and responsibilities to campaign this good news to giving hope for PLHIV and giving knowledge for those who still don’t understand about it.

On the other hand, this solidarity is also must concern to government’s policy. For sample, House of Representative of Indonesia proposing to pass Family Resilience Bill which is if this bill passed, LGBT people will be forced to report themselves to authority and do rehabilitation. I think this initiative is really against human rights and would affect negatively on HIV prevention programs, as most LGBT would be more afraid to go to hospital to check their status because this initiative.

So, I am hoping in commemorating World AIDS Day 2020, we could make collaboration in solidarity and keep respecting the human rights.