Indonesia's Persipura FC leads HIV fight in Papua

Papua’s famous Persipura football club - Indonesian Premier League champions in 2005 - is promoting HIV prevention to over a million people. Around Jayapura, the capital of Indonesia's eastern-most province, billboards display the Persipura team with slogans such as, ‘Be a champion, wear a condom’. Posters with the same message travel the province every day on the back of minibus seats. Before and during live football broadcasts, radio announcers present HIV-prevention messages and promote safe sex. On television, viewers can see Persipura striker Boas Salossa and popular Papuan singer Edo Kondologit chatting about responsible sexual behaviour and the importance of using condoms.

Persipura players and their managers also wear ‘Persipura champions’ shirts emblazoned with the HIV-awareness campaign logo – a condom holding a football. The shirts are highly prized by fans, especially since the team has started wearing them off the field. Thousands of identical shirts will soon be distributed to the 2,500 junior players in the Persipura football club.

Free condoms are given out at football matches. Communications adviser Sara Knuckey told AusAID Focus, "there’s no point talking about condoms unless people know what they are, how to use them, and can get hold of them easily. By distributing condoms over the next two seasons, we’re hoping people will start asking for them. Condom use in Indonesia is low compared with other countries so we need to popularise their use. This is why our partnership with Persipura is so important. The team can help us educate young males about HIV transmission before they are sexually active. We have to get across the message that everyone must 'act responsibly and wear a condom'", she said.

And just to make sure the safe sex message is never far from anyone’s mind, a large football-toting inflatable condom in Persipura team colours will float above the grounds, starting with the first game of the 2007 season. The next stage of the campaign is peer education. Former and current Persipura players are training as AIDS ambassadors. They’ll work with younger players to improve fitness and football skills but they’ll also teach them about sexuality and safe sex practices.

According to the AusAID-funded Indonesia HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care Project, the population estimate for Papua as of end 2005 was 2.5 million people while the estimated numbers of people with HIV is 11 042. The epidemic is more generalized than in other parts of Indonesia and reflects a Melanesian style epidemic as compared to a traditional Asian epidemic. HIV has been found in coastal as well as highland populations, in cities as well as villages, and is found in people who are not from the usual vulnerable populations of sex workers, IDU or men who have sex with men. Injection drug use seems to be relatively uncommon and transmission through injecting illicit drugs has not made a significant contribution to the epidemic. STI are endemic in Papua with high rates of antibiotic resistance, and limited health infrastructure to manage this effectively. Population level knowledge about HIV and its prevention through condom use, is low. Condom availability is also low. Other contributing factors to the epidemic in Papua include lack of circumcision and a long history of accepted cultural practices that now facilitate HIV transmission.

The Australian Government is supporting the multimedia campaign through a A$3.15 million grant during 2006-07. Disbursements of these funds to NGOs in Papua province include Palang Merah Indonesia (Red Cross) A$241,734, Yayasan Kesehatan Bethesda (Church-based health foundation) A$384,929 and DKT Indonesia (provider of condoms) A$500,000.

The central govenment owned Radio Republik Indonesia Jayapura receives A$66,594 as well as RRI Wamena A$29,867. According to the RRI stations carry a weekly radio program called Mari Kitorang Bertanggung Jawab (MKBJ - Let Us Be Responsible) to provide information about HIV/AIDS, to improve people's awareness and to ask people to be responsible about HIV/AIDS. "Other very successful activities included cooperation with the Panitia Pelaksana (Implementing Committee) of the Indonesian Football League. Every match played by Persipura - the Jayapura Football Team - is broadcast live on RRI. Volunteers distribute information about HIV/AIDS and the football commentators announce HIV/AIDS information to the spectators."

The football team itself, Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia Jayapura (Persipura), is allocated an Australian grant of A$26,979 for the period.