She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Esthi Hudiono, from Surabaya, East Java, is a relentless campaigner on the issue of HIV/Aids. With her NGO, the Yayasan Hotline Surabaya, she has worked to raise public awareness of HIV/Aids issues, providing counseling for those infected, and campaigning for 15 years for comprehensive strategies for its prevention and cure. In 2004, she succeeded in lobbying the local government to endorse the law on HIV/Aids prevention and cure. East Java is Indonesia’s first province to have such a law … She works with the Yayasan Hotline Surabaya, a non-governmental organization, which she chairs. For the past 15 years, Esthi has been working to promote public awareness of HIV/AIDS issues. Yayasan Hotline establishes health clinics in brothel areas, reaching out to sex workers, empowering them and marginalized women with information, befriending the HIV/AIDS-positive patients and lobbying for direct involvement of government bodies, hospitals and schools in the campaign effort.
Esthi is a trained education counselor. Her passion is to contribute her knowledge to society. “As a counselor, I am trained to help individuals to solve their problems, to encourage them to make changes so they could live better. That is exactly what I like doing,” she says. However, Esthi learned through her previous work that her problem solving techniques were very often impractical because her clients’ problems were rooted not only within themselves but also in the system and the environment in which they live. “I could only console them, not solve their problems. It’s impossible to encourage them to adapt to the system when the system itself is flawed” … (1000peacewmen 1/2).
She says: … “There is a moral bias both in the community and among policy makers. They think people with HIV/Aids simply deserve the disease as a punishment for having disobeyed religious norms”. (1000peacewmen).
Esthi Susanti Hudiono – Indonesia
She works for the Yayasan Hotline Surabaya.
Indonesia, challenges of synergising HIV/AIDS & Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. (SPOTLIGHT): An article from Arrows For Change, by Esthi Susanti Hudiono:
Adalah Esthi Susanti Hudiono. Membaca catatan kisah hidupnya dalam 15 tahun terakhir, seolah membuka catatan sejarah tentang perkembangan virus HIV/AIDS di Indonesia. Direktur Eksekutif Yayasan Hotline Surabaya ini merupakan generasi pertama aktivis HIV/AIDS di Indonesia. Ia bekerja dengan semangat yang terus membara, di tengah ancaman, kritikan, dan juga kehilangan sebagian materinya, demi menegakkan rasa kemanusiaan … (full text).
She says also: … “I thought this would be an easy job: just promote condoms, promote condoms face-to-face. Easy! Because people will be told about the risks, about sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and the others. It turns out we still haven’t succeeded” … (full text).
1000peacewmen 2/2: … When Esthi started to work on HIV/AIDS issues, she decided to focus on sex workers. “Though I personally do not agree with prostitution, it is not easy to just tell prostituted women to stop hooking, because they have families to support. Moreover, trying to quit means they have to face threats and physical abuse from their management,” she said. She thought that she could use her counseling skills to encourage sex workers to make changes in their sexual behaviors, such as using condoms and being aware of their reproductive health. She hoped that by altering their unsafe practices, sex workers would not be infected with HIV/AIDS or transmits the disease to others.
Esthi found that her efforts to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and cure were, again, hampered by problems hinged on a structural issue, the system. She came across HIV/AIDS issues by chance 15 years ago when Yayasan Hotline was invited to take part in a CDC/USAid research on HIV/AIDS in Surabaya. Surabaya is East Java’s capital city. It is notorious for its sex industry, which employs sex workers from the locality and other provinces. Surabaya’s position as a busy transportation hub and a favored destination of economic migrants has spurred the growth of the sex industry. No less than 20,000 prostitutes work in Surabaya’s five biggest authorized brothel compounds alone.
It was not the soaring prevalence of HIV/AIDS that provoked Esthi’s interest in the issue, but the lack of policies and actions that directly involved those who were at risk or were already infected with HIV/AIDS. Esthi and Yayasan Hotline use various methods, such as the outreach program, peer educator and community organizing, in their efforts to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS among sex workers in Surabaya. Early on, Esthi realized that focusing on the prostitutes’ sexual practices alone would neither slow down the HIV/AIDS transmission nor help the prostitutes themselves.
The popular condom-usage campaign, for example, might have taught sex workers the importance of using condoms to reduce the risk of getting infected with HIV/AIDS. However, in reality, sex workers continue to engage in unsafe sex because their clients refuse to use condoms. Sex workers, especially those working in brothels, do not dare to upset clients in order to avoid punishment from their bosses or protectors. But quitting the profession to avoid HIV/AIDS is an unfeasible option because sex workers are mostly poor or heavily indebted to their ‘management’.
Esthi then decided to change her strategy. She chose to work more directly with the sex workers and poor women prone to trafficking by offering them counseling, advocacy and empowerment programs. “There is an absolute need to pay more attention to the marginalized women and girls, especially those who live in poor villages,” she says. “They are very vulnerable and are easy targets of victimization. We should teach and empower them so that they are not easily lured into the sex industry through trafficking practices.”
In 1992, as part of her direct intervention efforts, Esthi pioneered an outreach service and a peer education program for sex workers in Surabaya. In 1994, she helped found a self-help organization for sex workers called the Kelompok Kerja Berdaya, or the Empowerment Working Group. Also in 1994, Esthi was involved in introducing the use of theatre play as a method of psychosocial therapy for the sex workers. Performed by the sex workers, the plays are usually staged at an annual sex worker conference held in Surabaya. The themes of the plays are chosen to reflect the problems encountered by sex workers, such as violence toward prostitutes, trafficking and harassment.
In 2000, Esthi founded the Yayasan Surabaya, which runs a drop-in clinic behind a prostitution compound. The clinic provides general health treatment, counseling and reproductive health services for sex workers. The next year, she help found a women’s NGO called the Forum Kesehatan Perempuan Kecamatan Krembangan, or the Krembangan Sub-district Women Health Forum. Krembangan is one of Surabaya’s five busiest red light districts.
In addition to sex workers and marginalized women, Esthi also works closely with people who are HIV/AIDS-positive by providing them with counseling and companionship. Although medical treatment for HIV/AIDS has recently become more available, only a few patients seek medication. Most of them prefer to hide their condition to avoid public embarrassment. “There is a moral bias both in the community and amongst policy makers. They think people with HIV/AIDS simply deserve the disease as punishment for having disobeyed religious norms,” Esthi explains.
Flawed media coverage that portrays HIV/AIDS as “some dangerous, severely contagious, hard to cure, nothing but embarrassing diseases” only bolsters public prejudice. Such a biased point of view has further hampered efforts to prevent and cure HIV/AIDS, she adds. Meanwhile, the government either fails to see, or chooses to ignore, the right of the HIV/AIDS-positive persons to receive medication.
Her disappointment in the lack of firm action by the government has led Esthi to persistently call for a change in the way the government perceives and handles HIV/AIDS issues. She argued that HIV/AIDS should not only be treated as a health issue, but also as a political issue. For that reason, Esthi led a lobby to set up legal instruments that support HIV/AIDS prevention and cure efforts.
The endorsement by the local government of Surabaya of the 2004 provincial law on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Cure, which is the first of its kind in the country, was the fruit of Esthi’s persistent lobbying with the provincial government and the legislative body. The law requires, among other things, people whose sexual behavior is at risk to wear condoms and use harm reduction injection. It likewise requires school programs which provide life skills education for students.
In 2004, Esthi was given the Surabaya Academy Award for health. The jurors said Esthi was chosen because she had demonstrated her dedication through her years of relentless work on the HIV/AIDS issues. She was praised for her advocacy and her efforts at providing free counseling to people with HIV/AIDS. She was especially applauded for her distinctive approach in treating HIV/AIDS not merely as a health issue but as a political issue. (1000peacewmen).
… She and the outreach worker review the basic facts about how HIV is transmitted. The girl knows she should always have her clients use a condom, but admits she cannot convince them. Even her current boyfriend will not wear a condom. This inability to dictate the terms of sex is a daily reality for prostitutes in Indonesia, says Esthi Susanti Hudiono, head of Hotline Surabaya – the organization that runs this office. “Sex workers do not have bargaining power. That belongs to the customers,” said Eshti. “It has proven almost impossible to give sex workers bargaining power in terms of condoms.” (full text).
The book: The Life Saver;
Suara Karya: Penderita HIV Sudah Mencapai 270 Ribu Orang, 2008 Oktober 17;
HIV / AIDS: Teror Surabaya Setelah Warga Wiyung, Pasien Gubeng Meninggal, March 07;
Yayasan Hotline Service Surya, Surabaya, Indonesia, Etika, Hak Asasi, Dan Pewabahan AIDS;
Kommunitas AIDS, Indonesia: Pentas Teater Surya Community;
UNaids – Street sex workers and STD/HIV/AIDS services in Surabaya, Indonesia;
Global Challenges – Survey Looks At Global Perceptions of Health Problems, Priorities, Foreign Aid, 14/Dec/2007;