INDONESIA: A Cleaner Fix - new PlusNews film

Photo: BBC
Indonesia’s large community of injecting drug users has been devastated by HIV/AIDS.
Jakarta, 31 March 2008 (PlusNews) - Indonesia is home to an estimated 500,000 injecting drug users. As many as 70 percent of them are HIV positive. Seen through the eyes of two ex-addicts, the new film by IRIN/PlusNews, A Cleaner Fix takes you into the world of the drug user and those who try to help.

Timotius Hadi is an accidental hero. In fact, many people wouldn't consider him a hero at all – a heroin addict for close to ten years, Hadi is the first to admit shame at some of the things he has done.

But since testing positive for HIV in 2003, and somehow finding the courage to turn his life around, Hadi has become a pillar of the community in which he was once a scourge.

These days he is an outreach worker with an organisation called Karisma, and his job is to supply clean syringes to injecting drug users. Founded by two former heroin addicts who met in a drug rehabilitation centre, Karisma runs a needle exchange programme in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

A Cleaner Fix
Photo: David Gough/IRIN
Timotius Hadi was a heroin addict for close to 10 years. But since testing positive for HIV in 2003 he has turned his life around and now supplies clean needles to injecting drug users. View Film
HIV/AIDS is a growing threat in the country and although the number of people infected is still relatively low – less than 0.25 percent of the population – Indonesia’s large community of injecting drug users has been devastated by HIV/AIDS.

Hadi’s only regret is that organisations like Karisma did not exist when he was using drugs – that way he might have avoided contracting HIV.

"I was 15 when I started using heroin," he said. "At first I always used new needles but by 1998 I was sharing needles.

"I felt bad after getting the (HIV) result but afterwards I felt grateful, because if I hadn't known my status then I'd be dead by now – I wouldn't be a better person."

Despite the very obvious risks of needle sharing, Hadi finds it hard to impress on his clients the need for regular HIV testing.

"It's too much for me – I don’t want to know the result," said Adi, 24, one of many clients Hadi has met at the local methadone clinic, where addicts are given a substitute drug to help wean them off heroin.

Read more
 IDU fact file
 Injecting more than drugs
Deadly cocktail: HIV and drug use
 HIV spreads among IDUs despite campaigns
It is a view shared by Yolanda, 28, a heroin addict who is also a sex worker.

"Of course I’m not brave enough to go for the test. What’s the point? It will just make me more stressed and depressed."

Yolanda was introduced to heroin by a boyfriend. Although the relationship didn’t last long, she became addicted to the drug but could no longer afford it.

She was left with no choice but to start selling her body. Yolanda insists on using condoms but admits it is a rule she is not always able to enforce. The same is true of needles.

"I rarely share needles; we usually buy them, but sometimes we are forced to share. If that happens then I only share with friends, but even then we don’t now who’s infected and who isn’t."

Hadi acknowledges that there is little chance of being able to persuade Yolanda to be tested for HIV. Nevertheless, he has managed to persuade many of his 150-odd regular clients to go for a test.

Andri, a 27-year-old addict who tested positive for HIV a few years ago but is now off heroin, on methadone and seeking antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, is one of them.

"I heard about HIV by word of mouth," said Andri, "but it was only talk – we kept on using. I only really understood the risk of HIV when I met Hadi."

Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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