Saya Positif: Living Positively with HIV is a compelling portrait series by independent documentary photographer Andri Tambunan. Saya Positif, meaning ‘I am positive,’ illustrates the lives of seven brave individuals living with HIV. They actively contribute to society and live colorful and healthy lives despite battling the stigma, discrimination and illness itself.
These seven people, both men and women between the ages of 20 and 41 years old, represent the population in Papua infected with HIV/AIDS. According to the latest data from the UNAIDS, an estimated 600,000 to 790,000 people are living with HIV in Indonesia.
Seven seems to be a small number but these individuals have shed light over the misrepresentations and general apprehension in engaging a person with HIV. Life is not always easy for them in terms of losing a friend or family member who also carries the virus. They can live a normal life and work regular jobs, but what brings them pain and fear is getting rejected and discriminated upon by their own family and community.
Pak Jhon, one of the participants in the project, locked himself in isolation because he was afraid of getting kicked out from his community. But with the support of his wife and other family members, he was encouraged to get treatment, which brought a sense of normalcy apart from hindering the virus’ deadly effects. Ibu Ratna, on the other hand, is a school teacher and single mother. His husband passed away due to the same illness. Her colleagues know about her status but have ensured that she won’t be treated differently.
Andri stresses the importance of getting tested for HIV, receiving treatment when infected, raising more awareness about the illness to break the stigma and discrimination; and to know that a person living with HIV can, in fact, live a healthy and productive life.
His initiative to present the lives of these brave individuals not only changes our perspective on how we should view and treat people living with HIV. It also helps us recognize that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about this global epidemic. Contracting HIV is not the end of the road, but rather, it can be taken as a sign to improve one’s quality of life. And Andri’s work proves this to be true.
To learn more about their stories and how Andri helmed this campaign, visit www.iampositif.org.