Monday, November 19, 2012

Against All Odds Exhibition at Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap Dec. 1-9

Cordially inviting all of you to the Exhibition of Against All Odds at Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap.  Exhibit opens Dec. 4 6pm at the 1961 Gallery.

For more information: please visit Angkor Photo Festival , Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant and the 1961

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Story of Mina

I first met "Mina" 3 weeks ago in the office of YPKM, Yayasan Pengembangan Kesehatan Masyarakat, a local NGO here in Wamena that assists those already infected with HIV/AIDS.  YPKM focuses on maintaining and improving the health of their "dampingan" or "Assistee."  To achieve their mission, YPKM provides transportation to those living very far away from a VCT clinic (voluntary counseling and testing clinic) when they want to get tested or get their medicines, they visit and monitor patients in their homes and hospitals, they provide spiritual support and helps their "dampingan" when they want to open up their status to their family members.  Lastly, what separates YPKM from other NGOs is that they provide basic foods (staple) to help them maintain their health such as rice, cooking oil, milk, green beans, and sugar and provide temporary shelter for recovery.

Most Papuans in Wamena works as a farmer and sell their crops such as vegetables and fruits at a local market earning enough to household items averaging around $5-8/day.  However, despite doing physical labor working on the field they don't consume enough nutritious food.  Their main staple is consisted of ubi or cassava that holds no nutritional value but satisfy hunger and meat is eaten rarely, only for special occasions.  As a result, maintaining one's health once infected with HIV/AIDS is definitely one of the biggest challenges since the HIV virus living inside the body will attack the body's natural defense system and makes one much more vulnerable to "opportunistic infections" such as Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, Malaria, etc.

Mina sat quietly in the office, she was quiet and shy.  I asked Pak Simson, the coordinator of YPKM, why she is here.  He told me that one of the field workers just took Mina to get tested for HIV and the result was positive.  I asked her if she knew how old she was and she shook her head.  Pak Simson then informed that that she has been sick, coughing and experiencing diarrhea for over a month.  Judging by her appearance and ailments, Mina is possibly on Stage 2 of AIDS.

We suspected that Mina is around 10-11 years old.  She came originally from Yahukimo and she walked 5 days to reach Wamena.  She spent one month living with acquaintances from the same village until she fell sick.  They brought her to the health clinic and that's when Mina met of the field workers of YPKM.  We don't really for sure how Mina got infected with HIV but she told us that she was forced to have sex with an older man back in Yahukimo.  The man settled with her family, in Papuans culture usually with pigs.  However, the man later died from a sickness. We suspect the man died of AIDS and that's how Mina got infected.

I asked Mina how often she eats at home.  She told me that she eats once a day and usually ubi or rice if she has enough money.  I looked at Pak Simson and he nodded in agreement.  Pak Simson asked Mina if she wants to stay at the shelter.  She nodded and thanked us.

I photographed Mina the first time I met her.  She was quiet and shy, but her piercing gaze struck me.  Judging from her appearance and the ailments it is possible that she is on Stage 2 of AIDS.

YPKM asked Mina to stay at their temporary shelter while she recovers.  Mina eats in her room that she shares with another girl. There was only one mattress and I bought another one for her to sleep on.

Mina drinks a glass of milk while gazing out the window.

Pak Simson checked the scale and verified that Mina had gained 3kg (almost 7lbs) ever since she stayed at YPKM Rumah Singgah or temporary shelter.  It was a good day for all of us.

Outside children were playing but she chose to stay inside and spent most time knitting a "noken" or a handmade bag

It would take weeks or months to make this handmade bag or "noken." Papuans use them to carry vegetables to the market and even their child.  It is quite strong to handle the heavy load. 

Mina knitting in her room. I asked her if she could make me a bag and she nodded and asked me which colors I wanted.
Mina is currently doing really well in her recovery.  She is taking her medication regularly and eating nutritious food everyday.  She is a lot more talkative and opened up a bit more.  We hope that she could start AntiRetroviral Treatment soon.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

YW and the Price of Adat Pt. 2

After finding YW in his honai in late Stages of AIDS, I urged him to go to the hospital.  We chartered a car to take him to the Emergency Room.  YW made some progress but after 3 days he checked himself out because he wanted to do a traditional (Adat) method of healing.

On a random day, I visited his home to check his condition and discovered a pig laying on the ground in front of his honai on its last breath.  I talked to his family member and he told me that they just purchased a pig for 2.500.00IDR = $300 to do "Adat".  It's a quite expensive purchase but it's a common practice in Papua to kill a pig and examine its inside in order to find causes of one's illness and cure it.  If a pig is too expensive, they would also settle for rabbits.  One spend a fortune, killing up 7-10 pigs to cure an illness until the person is cured by some coincidence, run out of money, or die.  

 I've been urging YW to go back to the hospital.  I told him that if he wanted to do an "Adat" that was his right and I can't stop him.  Nevertheless, I told him that he should stay in the hospital and let his family member do it for him.

YW purchased a pig from the local market for 2.500.000IDR = $300.  The pig was stabbed on the side puncturing its heart, lungs, and other internal organs

A fire pit already prepared by a family member

The body of the pig is washed with water before placing it above the fire

Fire is used to burn off the pig's hair so it's easier to scrape it off,

Once all its hair is burned off, the pig is placed on banana leaf to be cut and examined.

A family elder was chosen to make the incision.

The pig's blood is drained into a bowl.

A family member examined the color of the blood.  They said there's a lot of "dirty" blood which is more black in color than red. 
Internal organs of the pig were dissected and examined including the heart, lungs, and linings.

A family member found a "worm" clinging on the wall of the pig's lungs which they believed caused YW sickness. 

YW's wife washed the inside of the pig with water.

YW's wife examined the pig's internal organs.  She washed it and removed all the "infected" parts of the pig and burn it.  It is believed that this would cure the illness that YW is suffering.
The meat of the pig is then distributed to family members.  Several days later I visited YW's house and other than his wife the same family members I saw were no longer there. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

YW and the price of "Adat" pt. 1

YW has been HIV+ for 3-4 years.  His wife is also HIV+ and they are both taking ARV.  However, from what I've been told by a member of his family, he doesn't take his medicines properly. Maybe he doesn't take them on time or perhaps the wrong dosage, I am not too sure.  YW and his wife are originally from Lani Jaya but he is in Wamena because his condition hasn't gotten better.  He told us that he has been coughing and experiencing other symptoms such as diarrhea and lack of appetite.  They showed me his ARV tablets but I didn't see any TB medication.  Seeing his condition I would think that he would be taking that as well since TB is a common opportunistic infection.  Also, surprisingly, no member of his family had taken him to the hospital.  We were at his honai because we were interviewing another member of his family who is also HIV+.  As it turns out, this young man recently lost his baby a month ago and his wife is also HIV+ and he doesn't know where she is.  Ultimately, there are 5 members of this family who is affected by this epidemic. 

We chartered a car to bring Pak Yesaya to the Emergency room.  He had no energy to stand up.  When we got to the ER, the nurses there gave him saline solution and medicines.  I visited him a couple of times and my friends at LSM YPKM gave rice and milk.  However, 3 days after, Pak Yesaya checked himself out forcefully.  The reason that he stated was he wanted to do his "adat" or traditional healing.  The nurses couldn't do anything to stop him since they don't want to be held responsible if anything happens to him during care.  I looked at his chart and his whiteblood cells count is 24.  If I am not mistaken, normal is around 200-250.  I went back to his honai and found his family looking for a pig.  Two days later they killed a pig (Paid around 2.500.000IDR or $300) and examined the inside.  They found wounds or "luka-luka" in its lungs and other parts of the pig.  The cleaned the wounds and burned it believing that it would cure Pak Yesaya of his sickness.  They are planning to kill more.  
I felt powerless because there's nothing I could do to convince him and his family to return to the hospital to receive better care despite all the information that we have given to them.  The only thing that we said to them was God helps those who help themselves and the best way is to do both "adat" (traditional medicine) and berobat (modern medicines), hoping that would convince him to return to the hospital.  We told them that we would take care of transportation and paper work whenever he decides to do so. 
To Be Continued . . . .
**On another note, Just the other day I photographed a young woman 20 yr old, who died of AIDS, her family waited too long to take her to the hospital.  One day before she died, her family cut different parts of her body to get rid of the "dirty blood" that caused her sickness.  This procedure is another traditional method in this region. 

YW and his wife inside the honai or traditional house.  In front of him are ARV tablets. 

YW was to weak to stand up on his own. 

YW walked past a grave, where a baby was buried just a month ago due to sickness.  His parents are both HIV +.

Wesley from community group YPKM took an empty gurney. 

YW being taken to ER

A nurse examined his condition.

Nurses transferred YW to a bed from the gurney.

YW fell asleep after eating a bit of bread and receiving saline solutions and medicines. 

Pastor Simson, coordinator of YPKM prayed for YW at the end of the night. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Persiwa vs. Pelita Jaya

What to do on a rare day when there's nothing to shoot and the home team Persiwa happens to be playing, well, at home? You follow the crowd and enjoy the show.  Final score 4:2, victory for the home-team. 

Does it look cold? I was freezing my ass off.

Watching the game with my new friends

A drunk guy climbed up and jumped in. But he jumped back out when the guys with the machine guns tried to catch him.

TIP: This is Papua.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In the field with Yukemdi

Happy Sunday! I hope all is well.

I've been in Wamena for almost a month and everything is doing good so far.  

I've been working with my new friends at Yukemdi, a local NGO in Wamena led by Pak Yoram Yogobi.  I worked with Yukemdi briefly during my first visit in 2009.  Currently, the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in this region is 1533, but this number is estimated to be 3-4 times higher and Pak Yoram and his team are dedicated in educating the public on HIV/AIDS, assist those already infected, and reduce stigma.  After explaining my mission, Pak Yoram and my new friends at Yukemdi welcomed me as a part of the team.

At Pasar Baru market handing out educational pamphlets on HIV/AIDS.  Yukemdi included their office telephone number and address in the back each pamphlet for anyone who wants to contact them directly or get their immediate assistance.

Curious and interested, many people surrounded the truck to get information

Explaining the content of the pamphlet

Educating the public on Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STD)
My friends at Pasar Baru Market
Perhaps one of the most effective ways of spreading information, promoting communication, and understanding on the subject of HIV/AIDS to the general public is by visiting villages and playing educational movies.  Although books and pamphlets are good sources of information, they could be ineffective since illiteracy in this region is quite high and people here speaks various dialects as their main language other than Bahasa Indonesia (national language).

Earlier this week, Pak Yoram and I visited Village Husoak, about 15km from Wamena.  The village elder had requested Pak Yoram since last year to come down to his village and to play a movie to educate the people in his village about HIV/AIDS.  Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle for Pak Yoram has always been the lack of transportation.  In the past, Pak Yoram had bring his laptop and in-focus projector and chartered vehicles to go to villages and play movies.  But it had become too expensive.  Moreover, since most of the villages he visited had no electricity, he had to use gas-powered generator.  Because the electricity current is inconsistent, several laptops and projector had been burned.  

KPA (Komisi Penangulan AIDS) or National AIDS Commission has a vehicle in Wamena equipped with sound and projector system and surge protector for this task. Nevertheless, the truck is not available all the time since it could only be used when KPA is not using it.  I asked Pak Yoram why there is only one truck if this method is so effective and he told me that he had been wondering the same thing.  He added, there is not one place in Wamena and surrounding area he couldn't reach without the proper transportation.  Luckily for us that day, the KPA truck was available for us to use. 

Pak Yoram arriving at Village Husoak

Unloading equipment

Village elder of Husoak

Putting the projector screen together

No Electricity at the village, using gas- powered generator to run the projector and speakers.  The vehicle is equipped to handle the erratic electric voltage.  Doing such task in the past with other vehicles had ruined several laptops and projectors.

Setting up the movie.  The KPA vehicle is equipped with speakers, projector, amp, etc.

Villagers of Husoak watching an educational movie on HIV/AIDS

The children sits right up front

Add caption
This educational movie about HIV/AIDS attract hundreds of audiences including children and adults, it provides entertainment and information in a medium that is easy to understand.  Moreover, the audience is able to relate to the topics because the movie uses local dialects and feature Indigenous Papuans.  Ultimately, the movie promotes understanding on the spread of HIV/AIDS, its affects on the human body, how to prevent infection such as the use of condom and personal high-risk behavior, the benefit of Voluntary Testing and Counseling (VCT), and the availability of Anti RetroViral (ARV).  

*Personal Update*
I am due back in Jakarta on May 28. My plan is to stick around here for another month tops.  I would like to stay longer but I have to continue to my next destinations to Biak, Manokwari, and Sorong.  On another note, after much consideration, I am planning to return to the States at the end of June or early July to start editing the series and putting the book together as well as a multimedia piece.  Jakarta just doesn't have the resources to do everything that I need to do quickly and effectively and I think I could get a lot done in the States.