Fitri Wulandari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Kartam never imagined such news could bring a hell that came close to ruining his life forever.
Kartam's tragic story began eight years ago when police, the village leader and a doctor arrived at his home in Cibuaya, Karawang, West Java. The uninvited guests forced him and his family to take a blood test.
Later that day, Katam, a farm laborer in his 50s, received the shocking news: A local newspaper reported that three female workers from Cibuaya had been sent home by government officials in Riau, where they worked, after testing positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, more commonly known as HIV.
One of them, according to the article, was his 17-year-old daughter.
In Riau, his daughter worked as a food stall attendant. Her boss, admiring her beauty, made her his concubine -- prompting local public health officials put her a AIDS high-risk list and made her subject to involuntary testing.
Since then, Kartam's life has been turned upside down. Shunned and discriminated against by the local community for the last four years, he and his family have been forced to move from place to place. Upon learning of his daughter's HIV, each village would drive him off.
His daughter left home after she found life unbearable: journalists stalked her and took her picture. Their standard question was how she got the virus.
"Villagers went as far as burning a chair where my daughter had sat for fear of contracting the virus," Kartam said, recounting his bitter plight to participants of AIDS seminar on Thursday. "Nobody wanted to pass by my door."
Kartam recalled that even police refused to come near his home, and would shout obscenities at him.
Three years ago, though still fearful of rejection, Kartam and his family returned to Cibuaya and, later, so did his daughter. She had spent four years in hiding.
It was a happy ending for the daughter, however. After undergoing another test as a requirement for a job in Saudi Arabia, she tested negative. Following several months there, she returned home, and lives with her lover in Riau again.
Kartam's saga was a case study about the ignorance of the Indonesian public, fueled by media stereotypes, about people with HIV/AIDS.
Irwan Julianto, a senior journalist and AIDS activist, referring to the media, said, "when they report HIV/AIDS news, their paradigm is 'bad news is good news'."
"They have yet to approach it with compassionate journalism," Irwan added.
Maltreatment and rejection of people with HIV/AIDS will only worsen the situation, he said, since it deprives the sufferer of proper treatment, and can cause the virus to spread elsewhere.
Syaiful W. Harahap, editor of HindarAIDS newsletter likewise said that the media often made HIV/AIDS sufferers pariahs.
By forcing doctors to reveal the medical records of people suspected of having HIV/AIDS, Indonesian journalists themselves often violate a basic human right.
"A medical record is confidential -- it is against the law to reveal it to public," Syaiful said. ""But on top of things, it violates the right of confidentiality of HIV/AIDS victims.
[Sumber: The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, 8 Desember 2001]