In pictures: One prisoner's HIV campaign

Arrested for possessing a large amount of marijuana which he says he was safeguarding for a friend, Yogi, a former drug user, discovered he was HIV positive when he was tested in prison.

Yogi is 39 years old and six years into a 14 year prison sentence in Bandung prison, Indonesia.

© Vincent Rumahloine for the Alliance

Married with two children, he took part in a training session organised by the prison when he was first diagnosed HIV positive in order to learn more about living with the virus. He now shares his knowledge with the other inmates and teaches them how to stay healthy in prison.

Determined to make a difference

Yogi heads up a group of prisoners who are determined to fight discrimination against HIV and to educate others about the risks. As a result of their efforts, around 30 inmates now take a voluntary HIV test every month.

Through the work of our Linking Organisation in Indonesia, Rumah Cemara, a grassroots organisation set up by five former drug users to help others like them, the prison in Bandung is advocating for an innovative clean needle programme for prisoners later this year.

Inside Indonesia’s prisons

There are thought to be more than 100,000 people who inject drugs in Indonesia, a third of whom are living with HIV. The ongoing criminalisation of drug use has resulted in high rates of imprisonment of drug users.

HIV prevalence among prisoners who inject drugs in Indonesia has been estimated at 12% for women and 8% for men, compared with a prevalence rate of 0.4% in the general adult population.

The number of people imprisoned for drug offences represents more than a quarter of all prisoners in Indonesia. The widespread availability of drugs in prisons and the fact that the prison system is dangerously over-crowded, make this group particularly vulnerable to the transmission of HIV and other communicable diseases.

Faced with growing concern over HIV transmission among people who inject drugs, the Indonesian government has introduced more health-focused services. However under the Narcotics Law #35/2009, drug use is still criminalised and continues to drive people who use drugs away from lifesaving healthcare.

Looming funding crisis as HIV infections rise

Indonesia has a growing HIV epidemic but the withdrawal of overseas aid from middle income countries by international donors means a sudden lack of funding, and essential HIV prevention services for people who inject drugs are at risk of being discontinued.

International provision of harm reduction services is under threat from a funding crisis and lack of political will, according to a report which we have produced with Harm Reduction International (HRI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).

The report makes it clear that the resources needed to rebalance drug policy in favour of health are minimal compared to the level of funding invested in drug law enforcement, housing prisoners and treating HIV and Hepatitis C infections that could have been averted through the provision of harm reduction services for drug users.