Changing the landscape of community engagement in the HIV response in Indonesia

“Communities must be allowed to sit in the driver’s seat and take control of their lives. They are not passengers that sit idle, but leaders capable of making changes,” said Aditya Wardhana, the Executive Director of the Indonesian AIDS Coalition (IAC). This is the motto that he lives by, a motto that drives the work of IAC and how communities and civil society are meaningfully engaged in the HIV response in Indonesia.

IAC is a community-led organization based in Jakarta and was recently appointed the second community Principal Recipient to implement the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s (Global Fund) grant for HIV in Indonesia for 2022–2023—a feat, since only a handful of community-based organizations nationally or regionally hold Global Fund Principal Recipient status.

“Often, communities are seen as beneficiaries of programmes or as patients, not as decision makers. The IAC has always strived to shake up this dynamic. We believe that being a Principal Recipient will give us greater control over the issues that impact our communities and will set the direction of the national HIV response that puts communities at the centre of it,” explained Mr Wardhana.

In Indonesia, there are still significant gaps in the HIV response. Treatment coverage is low, with only 26% of people living with HIV on treatment, prevention is still lagging and stigma and discrimination remains high. IAC has identified three priorities to improve the HIV response in Indonesia, which include recognizing community health workers as health workers, creating more sustainable financing to reduce reliance on external donors and reforming laws and policies that discriminate and lack redress mechanism for victims of discrimination.

Networks of people living with HIV deliver life-changing services to those most affected and provide support for adherence to treatment, prevention and other essential health services. The involvement of civil society has been crucial in successfully advocating for sustainable financial resources, improving HIV programming and advancing human rights.

Over the next couple of years, IAC will work on these priority issues with the support of civil society organizations, United Nations partners and other stakeholders. IAC will continue to manage the human rights and community system strengthening programme, supported by the Global Fund and the Ministry of Health. Community system strengthening and community-led monitoring are integral parts of the HIV response. The programme ensures that community-based organizations play an active role in monitoring access to services, community programme quality assurance and human rights violations.

Since the organization’s foundation, the UNAIDS Country Office for Indonesia has been an ally and key partner, supporting IAC throughout the Principal Recipient selection process. “We know how important the role of communities is at all levels of the HIV response. We will continue to support IAC by providing technical assistance and capacity-building, working in collaboration to promote the meaningful engagement of communities and civil society in the HIV response,” said Krittayawan Boonto, the UNAIDS Country Director for Indonesia.

IAC, with support from the United Nations Population Fund in Indonesia, will soon establish a peer-led HIV prevention programme for female sex workers, offering differentiated service delivery to increase the uptake of HIV prevention services. Through the programme, they will also empower communities through capacity-building initiatives to drive the greater involvement of civil society in decision-making, especially in forming policies that directly impact the health and well-being of communities and vulnerable populations. Moreover, IAC plans to integrate gender-based violence screening into its outreach programmes. A human rights-based approach is essential to ending AIDS as a public health threat. This approach will create an enabling environment for successful HIV responses and affirms the dignity of people living with or vulnerable to HIV.

IAC will be responsible for managing US$ 17 million to implement the above programmes, with eight organizations across Indonesia as subrecipients.

“We will dive deep into these challenges and hopefully change the landscape of the HIV response. We believe that a more participatory approach will re-energize communities and remind them why HIV is still important and how programmes designed by communities for communities can save lives. This is what we will work towards; this is how we will end AIDS by 2030,” said Mr Wardhana. 

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