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Baby Jim Aditya

Passionate about the fight against HIV/AIDS, DJ-turned-activist Baby Jim Aditya has lived with sex workers in red-light districts in an effort to educate them on HIV/AIDS, visited prisons to teach inmates about the dangers of used needles and unprotected sex, and challenged deep rooted prejudices in her country’s patriarchal society. Here, she tells us why she believes attitudes have to change.

Compiled by Chitra S

What prompted your involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Indonesia?

As a stage actor in the early 80s, I’d visited seedy areas where prostitution was rife to observe and learn from people’s behaviour. It was around the time the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported. I found that many women were silent victims of this disease and other STDs. Often, the male clientele of these sex workers did not practise safe sex and were infecting their unsuspecting partners, but these issues were never discussed openly. I decided then that something had to be done to create more awareness of the disease to keep people safe. 

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On a visit to a Vietnamese prison.

You took on the HIV/AIDS issue in the early years of the epidemic while you were a young mother. Did your family support your decision?

Yes, I have been very lucky in that aspect, and I’m very grateful. My family has always supported me. My husband Jim has been wonderful. Despite this being a patriarchal society, he respects my independence and even encourages it. We have raised our sons (Gior, 27 and Zaro, 23) to respect others, no matter their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. 

What are the challenges you face as a woman fighting the cause?

Safety is a big concern. My work takes me to truck depots, alleys and prisons and I get teased and provoked many times. I’m also known as Ibu Kondom (because I hand out condoms to those at-risk) and because of this, some people assume I’m an ‘easy’ woman. In the course of my work, I’ve encountered many men who make lewd remarks and proposition me.

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Educating inmates at Indonesia’s Tangerang prison.

What inspires you to keep fighting for a more awareness of HIV/AIDS issues?

The thought of doing something good for the society keeps me going. I believe we can make this world a better place if each and every one of us does little things to show how much we care for others. Rather than not doing anything, a small step will help us achieve big goals. 

In Southeast Asia, what is the major stumbling block for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment?

In my opinion, the biggest problem is changing people’s mind-sets and attitudes towards sexuality, drug use and HIV/ AIDS. If we are not talking about these issues openly, how are we to tackle prevention and treatment of the disease? Another issue is the stigma associated with people living with HIV/AIDS; they are people just like us and should not be discriminated against. They deserve access to the same services and facilities we do. 

As a wife, mother, designer, activist and psychologist, you must be a very busy woman, don’t you ever get tired?

Sometimes I do get tired, but I remedy that by taking a short nap or meditating (I’m a master at hypnotherapy). I believe it’s all in our mind. Mind over matter! After a busy week, what do you do to unwind? I try and catch up on my sleep or do a bit of reading during the weekend. Family is also a priority and I try to spend as much time as I can with them. The four of us often go swimming on Sunday afternoons.

Sharing a light moment with female inmates in Tangerang.

Sharing a light moment with female inmates in Tangerang.

What drives your passion for life?

I’m blessed to have such loving and caring people around me. Because of this, I feel I should do everything in my power to spread and share goodwill with others. 

What values do you instill in your own children?

I’ve always taught my sons to respect themselves and others around them. For instance, in our male dominated society, women are often less valued than men. My children have been brought up to treat women with the respect and dignity they deserve.

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With prisoners in Tanjung Redeb prison, East Kalimantan.

Do they share your passion for helping the unfortunate?

Since they were young, my children have often accompanied me on my AIDS awareness campaigns. They have visited prisons and hospitals, and interacted with those affected with HIV/AIDS. The early exposure to such a cause has taught them humility and tolerance, and they’re always willing to assist me with my work. In fact, when they were in school and had their own bands, they would always speak out about HIV/AIDS awareness during performances. 

What can the man on the street do in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

The first thing anyone can do to help themselves is to be informed. Knowing what causes HIV/AIDS, how it spreads and what you can do to prevent it is really important. Many people think the disease will not affect them so they don’t have to learn about it or get tested, but we have to change that mind-set. 

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Aditya and her husband Jim during a trip to East Kalimantan.

What is your hope for the future?

I would like to set up a hospice for AIDS patients, especially or those from underprivileged backgrounds who are abandoned by their families. People have the right to die with dignity, and I think we should provide them a place to do so.

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