amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Celebs Tweet for HIV Awareness in Indonesia

The TREAT Asia Interview: Dian Sastrowardoyo and Joe Taslim is an HIV/AIDS information hub serving people in Indonesia, a country where talking about HIV remains challenging—and where HIV prevalence increased over 25% between 2001 and 2011.In January 2013, launched a comprehensive social media campaign to promote HIV awareness and reduce HIV-related stigma. ambassadors Dian Sastrowardoyo, an Indonesian model and actress, and Joe Taslim, a model, actor, and former Judo athlete, each reach nearly a million social media followers with their regular posts about and the importance of HIV awareness and testing. TREAT Asia caught up with them to talk about why they’ve chosen to speak out publicly about HIV.

dian and joe ambassadors Dian Sastrowardoyo and Joe TaslimTREAT Asia Report: Why did you decide to become ambassadors for and why do you think it’s important to use your celebrity to promote AIDS awareness?

Dian: I learned that the rate of HIV in Indonesia is rapidly increasing. As the country with the world’s fourth largest population, we cannot put this issue aside. Fighting HIV/AIDS is all about educating ourselves about the virus, how to prevent it and how to live with it. I would like to use my presence for a good cause—to generate mass awareness about HIV/AIDS and directly target certain audiences with proper information about HIV/AIDS.

Joe: As a public figure, I want to use my influence to do the most good I can. When I met with and heard data on the lack of information people in Indonesia have about HIV/AIDS and on the number of people living with HIV/AIDS increasing every year, it inspired me to do something. Also, people’s awareness that they need to get tested is very low, meaning the actual HIV rate could be even higher. So I am promoting with my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts to increase my friends’ and fans’ awareness about HIV/AIDS.

TA Report: What kinds of responses have you received from your fans or the general public about your efforts to promote HIV testing?

Dian: I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from fans and the media. If I can just get their attention on the issue and direct them to for all the information they need, it will be great. It is important to know your HIV status—not only for you, but for the people you care about—so I have also set a positive example by publicly taking an HIV test.

Joe: The response so far has been great, and lots of my celebrity friends in Indonesia help us spread the news about My fans’ reaction is also very positive. They can now get information about HIV/AIDS from and we hope it will build their awareness that they need to get tested and that they will then spread that knowledge to others. I think especially in Indonesia, the first step is to educate everybody about HIV/AIDS, focusing most on the young generation. When they have an awareness about having safe sex and how to react to people with HIV/AIDS, I believe the stigma towards HIV/AIDS will fade. That’s the hope and we will keep fighting to reach that point.

Dian Sastrowardoyo after getting an HIV test.

TA Report: Why do you think social media, such as that used by the website, is an effective strategy to reach at-risk individuals, both in Indonesia and in general? Could you also describe how you personally have used social media as part of the campaign?

Dian: Social media is considered one of the most effective tools for any campaign. It is rapidly accessible 24/7. Knowing I have great numbers of followers, I like utilizing my social media account for a good cause and hope my followers will spread all the main messages of the campaign.

Joe: Everybody is into using social media with their smartphones. They can easily access through Facebook and Twitter and even have an email or chat consultation with a doctor through the website or Facebook and have their privacy protected, rather than going to the hospital and meeting face-to-face. Most people in Indonesia are still shy and not open about discussing this issue, even with their parents and close friends.

I also post about other things I do to promote a healthy lifestyle, like running and getting medical checkups. I think being a good role model with a healthy life will help the campaign as well. When people realize how important it is to stay healthy, it will sink in more every time I talk or post about HIV/AIDS. It won’t seem like lecturing, but more like giving them good, friendly advice. 

JoeBanneratCiptoMangunkusumo.pngA poster featuring Joe Taslim (Click image for full size).TA Report: According to estimates from Jakarta’s Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, 60% of patients diagnosed with HIV there have a CD4 count below 200, meaning they have likely been positive for quite some time before they are tested.  And according to UNAIDS, less than one-fifth of Indonesians in need of antiretroviral therapy are accessing it. What do you see as the main barriers to getting people tested and into care?

Dian: We tend to think that HIV/AIDS will never happen to us and only happens on TV or in movies or articles you read in magazines. Wrong. It lives around you, and it affects more and more people each year. It is important to learn your HIV status, what kind of lifestyle you should adopt to stay negative, how to live with HIV, and how to live with someone who has it without being prejudiced. Everyone with HIV is a human being who has the right to conduct social activities. The public tends to mistreat them as the result of having the wrong information. If you do carry the virus, it is better to know as early as possible. You could improve your quality of life.

Joe: That’s the real fight in this campaign—the stigma about how HIV spreads and the fact that people think if they have it their life will end and they will be treated badly. Those are the main barriers to people getting tested, because they are afraid of the results. That’s why on we give them accurate information. In order to change their perceptions, they have to really understand HIV. And that’s the role a public figure can play, because they look up to us. It will take some time, but we hope not too long. It definitely is a process that the government and everybody else should be involved in as well. Everybody.

TA Report: Although HIV affects many different groups of people in Indonesia, UNAIDS reports that the HIV rate among most-at-risk populations was much higher than among the general population, with the highest rate among people who inject drugs—36% in 2012. What do you think needs to be done to improve HIV prevention outreach among these groups?

Dian: Unsafe sex and sharing needles during drug consumption are the two most common channels of HIV transmission in Indonesia. Reaching people who practice those behaviors is a must. The campaign has to be executed in the right tone and manner to reach the target audiences. Expanding partnerships with foundations who work closely in those specific areas can be a great tool.

Joe: To reach these groups we need to work together with the anti-drug and social departments because these issues all connect and all cause destruction in communities. I think doing a collaborative campaign with these groups could help. In Indonesia, rather than treating these at-risk populations like they’re freaks, we need to embrace them. They need our support. There are so many ways to educate them and give them information. Through something like, they can ask anything and still have their privacy.

TA Report: launched its website and social media network one year ago and had its official public launch last November. What have been some of the most memorable moments of the campaign so far and what else do you hope to accomplish?

Dian: We took HIV tests to motivate others to do same. We also did a press conference and got a massive response from the media and the public. The number of web visitors to has increased significantly since those activities occurred and I hope more and more people will take some time to know more about HIV/AIDS.

Joe: There is still so much work to be done and only so much I can manage by myself. For now, what I can do is to support the campaign using social media to build my followers’ HIV awareness and to create a trend that being healthy is something cool. I think it all starts there. Once people have an awareness of how important it is to be healthy, I think it will help with many health-related social problems—not just AIDS, but also drug addiction, cancer, unsafe sex, and other diseases.