Since 2009 Andri Tambunan has been documenting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tanah Papua. A region located in the eastern most part of Indonesia, Tanah Papua has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the country. What initially started off as an investigation into some of the causes and devastating impacts of the epidemic has lead to his latest project I am Positif. I am Positif profiles seven individuals who are HIV positive and, contrary to negative stereotypes, Andri says they are strong, healthy, productive, resilient and hopeful people. Their heart-rending testimonies are not only a source of inspiration but also a call to help end HIV/AIDS related stigmas and discrimination in Tanah Papua.
Because much of the region still correlates HIV/AIDS with suffering, dishonor and death—one of Andri’s biggest challenges was finding the right subjects who were willing to tell their stories in front of the camera without concealing their identities.
Many profiles on individuals living with HIV have been done in the past by the local media but their faces are often hidden as if they were criminals, which reinforces the stigma.
Early on Andri knew that still photos would be inadequate to tell the stories. So, for the first time he used audio and video to help portray their unique personality and the strength and resilience of their character. With the help of contacts he had at local NGOS, activists, community leaders, doctors and nurses—he received recommendations for participants in his ambitious project.
…Regardless of the importance or the urgency of the objective, we have to choose the most effective approach to better engage our audience. Sometimes, we can’t limit ourselves to just one platform to make certain that our message will move people to take actions.
After Andri had finished the film he wanted to utilize additional platforms to educate, engage and empower. He produced a 60-page newsprint containing testimonies and the photographs of the individuals he profiled in the film. A thousand copies were printed and distributed free of cost to NGOS, activists and support groups in Tanah Papua. Additionally, he created an interactive website to feature the stories in both English and Indonesian. Andri also enlisted the help of friends and family with the project.
I also asked my friends and family to donate used digital point and shoot cameras in exchange for a print. Then I distributed them to the same individuals I profiled so they could continue to document their lives from their own perspective. I plan to share some of their photos on I am Positif social media accounts i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr.
For the final phase of the project Andri plans to distribute the newsprint to government officials, policy makers and international NGOS and stakeholders who are involved in various support programs associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tanah Papua. Andri believes it’s important to present this project before governing bodies and influential organizations who have the power to ensure necessary change.
To see more of Andri’s work visit andritambunan.com