Indonesia: Esthi Susanti Hudiono

There is a moral bias both in the community and among policy makers. They think people with HIV/Aids simply deserve the disease as a punishment for having disobeyed religious norms."

— Esthi Susanti Hudiono

Esthi Hudiono, from Surabaya, East Java, is a relentless campaigner on the issue of HIV/Aids. With her NGO, the Yayasan Hotline Surabaya, she has worked to raise public awareness of HIV/Aids issues, providing counseling for those infected, and campaigning for 15 years for comprehensive strategies for its prevention and cure. In 2004, she succeeded in lobbying the local government to endorse the law on HIV/Aids prevention and cure. East Java is Indonesia’s first province to have such a law.

Initially, Esthi Hudiono's interest in HIV/Aids issues was provoked by the severe lack of effective intervention programs to prevent or cure the disease. Even the popular condom-use campaign failed to slow down its spread. Esthi and her NGO, the Yayasan Hotline Surabaya, work with sex workers and marginalized women, providing them with outreach services and drop-in health clinics in brothel areas. They also initiate empowerment programs through training, peer education and counseling and advocacy for sex workers and poor women in Surabaya. Surabaya, Indonesia’s second biggest city, is infamous for its sex industry, with at least 20,000 women prostitutes working in its five biggest "authorized" brothels. Esthi says that due to poverty and lack of education, marginalized women are at risk of being trafficked and forced into prostitution. "Traditional values, which compel women to submit to their men, mean that even 'well-behaved' women are exposed to HIV/Aids if their husbands are practicing high risk sexual behavior," she adds. People with HIV/Aids also benefit from counseling and advocacy: "These people face discrimination. Society shuns them, considering HIV/Aids not as a disease, but as a punishment for disobeying laws and religious values. This forces people with HIV/Aids to live in denial to avoid embarrassment," she says. Esthi lobbied relentlessly for government to come up with regulations that support efforts towards prevention and cure. Her work bore fruit when the East Java provincial government passed a law in late 2004 on HIV/Aids prevention and cure, the first of its kind in Indonesia, which requires people with high-risk sexual behavior to wear condoms and receive harm-reduction injections.

Yayasan Hotline Surabaya