One Day

Bowo, not his real name, is what Indonesians call an ODHA (orang dengan HIV/AIDS, or person suffering from HIV/AIDS)…

The 27-year-old, a former drug addict and prisoner who married last year but has not told his wife or family about his condition, works as a counselor to fellow sufferers at Bali’s Yayasan Matahati, an AIDS group funded by AusAid, in the Batubulan area of Gianyar regency. He shared his day with The Bali Times’ Arga Sagitarini.

My day begins at 6am, and straight away I get ready for work. I spend most of the day out of the office, going around and searching for other (suspected) ODHAs and trying to convince them to take a HIV test. If they know they are positive, they’ll be more careful about preventing transmission of the virus.

As for myself, I found out I was HIV positive after being tested while I was in hospital in 2003 with tuberculosis. I only did the test after some counselors there convinced me to do it, but when I got the results I was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do, what was going to happen.

But fortunately, the counselors were always with me and told me I had to live as normal a life as possible, and to work at Yayasan Matahati and share my experiences with others and tell them that the best way to avoid AIDS is to live a healthy life.

After being out all day, I get back home around 5pm – home to my lovely wife. She doesn’t know I have HIV, nor do my family. I’m not ready to tell them yet. I’m always careful not to infect my wife when we’re intimate and always use a condom.

I caught HIV when I used a hypodermic needle when I was taking drugs three years ago. I’d been doing drugs for 10 years, ever since I was in high school. Eventually I was arrested by the police and jailed for one and a half years. Behind bars, I vowed to become a better person, and told myself that even though I have the HIV virus in my body, I could still lead a normal life. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.
Before I became infected, I was scared of AIDS, but I’ve learned it’s not the death sentence people used to think it was. That doesn’t mean there isn’t discrimination in society, though – AIDS still has a bad image and many ODHAs suffer discrimination here.

I do some exercises in the evening to keep healthy; my doctor suggested I do them. Usually I do some jogging and pushups. Around 8:30 we have dinner, and I like to eat healthily – food that has a high nutritional value.

My immune system is actually in good shape, and up to now I haven’t required antiretroviral drugs. I want to stay healthy because once you start taking those drugs, you have to continue with them for the rest of your life.

One day I hope a drug will become available that will wipe out HIV. I want to be free from it, and to have a healthy life with a lot of children.

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