The Role of Islam in Indonesia in Viewing the Infection of HIV/AIDS (The Preliminary Studies)


Wisnu Adihartono

Doctor in Sociology from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) Marseille – France.

Doctor/ PhD member of the Institut de diplomatie publique


As a social, cultural, and political factor, religion impacts the way in which

communities understand and respond to HIV/AIDS. Structural factors such as

sexual violences, policing, incarceration, drug treatment availability, drug use

law, immigration policies, stigma, and discrimination shape where and how risk

happens, and whether people receive needed assistance. Religion coincides with

numerous cultural factors, influenting perspectives on prevention approaches

and stigma toward people living with HIV/AIDS. The role of religious organizations

in caring for people living with HIV/AIDS has been limited and religious beliefs

may contribute to stigma and discriminations. The HIV/AIDS epidemics in

some areas in Indonesia has already reached the “concentrated” stage. It was

estimated that as of 2002 there were approximately 12 millions to 19 millions

people in Indonesia who were at risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS. Some

of the groups identified as being vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection are Injection

Drug User (IDUs); female sex workers; male clients of female sex workers; men

who have sex with men (MSM), including male sex workers and gays;

transvestites and their clients; and sexual partners of people in these groups.

Based on HIV/AIDS sentinel surveillance results and a number of studies on

these vulnerable groups, it is estimated that about 90,000 to 130,000 people had

been enfected with HIV/AIDS by the year 2002. This paper will analyze the role

of religion when the religion, in this case Islam, look at the HIV/AIDS infection.

The questions will be pose are what are the patterns about HIV/AIDS in

Indonesia if associated with Islam? This research is preliminary research, thus I

use the literature reviews in order to write this paper.

I. Introduction

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual (LGBT) issue has actually been

a topic of considerable debate within the civilizatio of mankind. Community

norms that condemn various kinds of sexual deviations get challenges from groups

who feel disadvantaged over these norms. This kind of debate is becoming

increasingly visible after the campaign launched by the LGBT movement that

began in Western society (Usman 2018). The presence of LGBT in Indonesia has

led to widespread polemics, the majority of communities rejecting such behaviour

as perceived to be contrary to moral and theological values. So that many LGBT

individuals get scolding and rejection everywhere, especially religious organizations

and educational institutions. The Indonesian Ulama Council firmly reject the

existence of LGBT groups in Indonesia that are considered toe be contrary to the

religion, morals and culture of the nation. Religious assemblies consisting of

Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Confucianism also express their rejection of

LGBT on the ground that such behaviour is a disorder and sexual aberation. The

religious assembly views LGBT activities as opposed to Pancasila, the 1945

Constitution article 29 paragraph 1, and law No. 1 of 1974 on Marriage. LGBT

activity is also judges to be contrary on the doctrinal principles of any religion

(Usman 2018). Although discrimination againts women and ethnic or religious

minorities has been much discussed in Indonesia, very little progress has been

made in the fight for LGBT rights. Meanwhile, the LGBT community experiences

violence, fear of loss of employment, bullying in school and in the public sphere,

only because of their sexual orientation. Many people have argued that LGBT

people do not need to be protected. What makes them different?

The first reason is that there are many people who believe that same-sex

relationships are forbidden by God/religion. As a result, LGBT people do not

need to be given protection or be empowered. This belief is still quite prevalent in society and in state policy, and, as a result, violence is often considered

necesary or permissible because it indicates “they” are on a path not condoned

by God (Arivia and Gina 2016). The second reason is that many people believe

that LGBT is a lifestyle that can be avoided if a person wishes. This lifestyle is

viewed as destruction and in opposition to existing norms. Sexual relations such

as sodomy, and the lifestyle of gay people, are seen as a strange and abnormal

way to live. Since lifestyle is a choice, LGBT issues are not seen as human rights

issues but caused by the stupidity of the individual (Arivia and Gina 2016). The

third reason is that since the LGBT community is viewed as having a lifestyle

associated with glamour, it is thought that there is no one in the LGBT

community from poor sectors of society (Arivia and Gina 2016). The fourth

reason is that LGBT people often do not want their sexual orientation to be

known out of shame or for family reasons. They hide their attraction towards

the people they love, distinct from heterosexual couples (Arivia and Gina 2016).

With these four things, most LGB peoples do not appear whether they are gay,

lesbian or bisexual. They can have characters like ordinary men and women

without giving up their sexual orientation. This condition of course (very)

dangerous for their health because LGB people who “deceive” themselves as

LGBs will be embarrased to go to the Community Heatlh Centre (Pusat

Kesehatan Masyarakat/PusKesMas) or hospital to check their condition whether

they have been infected with HIV/AIDS or not.

According to research conducted by Kusman Ibrahim, Praneed Songwathana

and Umaporn Boonyasopun in 2015, there were an estimation 35 million people

living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) globally and 19 millions of

them do not know that they have the virus (Ibrahim et al. 2015). The HIV

pandemic is still a major problem and poses continual challenges to many

countries. Indonesia is one among 15 countries that reported over 75% of the

2.1 million new infection that occurred in 2013. Indonesia has been facing

increasing numbers of PLWH since the first case was identified in 1987. The country has been noted as having the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia. Up

to September 2014, the number of people with HIV were reported 150,296, and

55,779 persons have been in the stage of AIDS (Ibrahim et al. 2015), however

during the last decade, there has been much debate in Indonesia concerning the

imminent arrival of HIV/AIDS epidemic (Lindquist 2005).

After Irian Jaya in Papua Island and Jakarta in Java Island, the Riau

Archipelago in Sumatera Island – and Batam in particular – has the highest

official rates of HIV in Indonesia. Of the cumulative HIV/AIDS cases in

Indonesia, Riau Province has slightly less than 10%, the overwhelming majority

of which are concentrated in Batam and neigbouring islands, which have less

than 0.5% of the total population of Indonesia (Lindquist 2005). Meanwhile, if

we look at the rate spread of HIV/AIDS in Bandung (West Java), reported that

Bandung has a highest number of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWH) in

Indonesia, which was 3,267 cases cumulatively up to September 2014 (Ibrahim

et al. 2015). An estimated 25 million people have died since HIV/AIDS was

first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most lethal epidemics in history

(Monshipouri and Trapp 2011).

II. Methodology

This research is the preliminary research thus I only used literature references

and very short interviews (informal interviews) with six people infected with

HIV/AIDS. Review of literature involved an electronic search (Ibrahim and

Songwathana 2009) for information related to the consequences caused by the

religion, in this case of Islam. Beside using electronic references, I also used

several books and journals to search for data.

In this study, I only met six people in Jakarta who were infected with

HIV/AIDS and had a religion of Islam. They are my own friends who have

confessed that they have been infected with HIV/AIDS, therefore I have not

carried out “heavy” research. Conversations with them are done by “chatting”

in a cafe, their home, or in a place they feel comfortable. Because this research

is very sensitive, I will not publicize their real names in public. I will only use

pseudonyms and age as their identification. this research is purely qualitative

research, therefore I will only reveal the story in narrative form of five


III. Stigma and Discrimination Against People with HIV/AIDS

Indonesian LGBT suffers from prejudice (stigma) and discrimination.

Discrimination refers to the actual behaviours that are harmful or product

negative effects on LGBTs (Bohan 1996). The forms of discrimination that

Indonesian LGBT experience include being the subject of ridicule, getting fired

from one’s job, being the object of sexual harrassment, getting expelled from

school, getting rejection by peers, being disowned by one’s family, being forced

to remain in the closet, being pressured to conform to traditional gender roles,

and becoming the victim of violence, assault, and sexual assault. Underlying prejudice (stigma) and discrimination against LGBT is heterosexism. Heterosexism

is a world view or value system that prizes heterosexuality, assumes that it is the

only appropriate manifestation of love and sexuality, and devalues homosexuality

and all that is not heterosexual (Ellis and Murphy 1995). This heterosexual

assumption and the teaching of heterosexuality as the sole, legitimate expression

of sexuality and affection is ingrained in society’s norms, institutions, laws,

cultural expressions, media, and science (Macapagal et al. 2013). In Indonesia,

the prevalence concept of homosexuality is that of sickness and sin. LGBT

activity is generaly viewed by society include sinners, genetically deformed, and

psychology imbalance. Therefore fear of the HIV/AIDS virus occurs in the


The first time HIV/AIDS diagnosed in Indonesia was in 1987 (Samuels

2018). The epidemic has been rising since then, first mostly among injecting

drug users, but over the last decade increasingly affecting men who have sex

with men, female sex workers, and high-risk men and their wifes and children,

with an estimated 690,000 people infected by 2015 (Indonesia National AIDS

Commission 2014). But what is the biggest obstacles for HIV/AIDS prevention

in Indonesia? One of the biggest obstacles to HIV/AIDS prevention and control

in Indonesia is the high level of prejudice (stigma) and discrimination against

people with HIV/AIDS. Prejudice (stigma) comes from the mind of an individual

or community who believe that HIV/AIDS is a result of immoral behavior that

cannot be accepted by society. Prejudice (stigma) against people with HIV/AIDS

is reflected in cynicism and excessive feelings of fear. Many think that people

infected with HIV /AIDS deserve punishment due to their own actions (Shaluhiyah

et al. 2015). This is why people with HIV/AIDS infection receive unfair

treatment, discrimination and prejudice (stigma). Social isolation, dissemination

of HIV/AIDS status and rejection of the various spheres of community activities

such as education, work, and health services is a form of prejudice (stigma) that

often occurs. The high level of public rejection of people with HIV/AIDS causes some of them to live by hiding their status (Maman et al. 2009). Prejudice

(stigma) against people with HIV/AIDS has a big impact on HIV/AIDS

prevention and control programs. The risk populations will feel afraid to take

HIV/AIDS tests because if the results are revealed they will be ostracized.

People with seropositive are afraid to reveal their status and decide to postpone

treatment, particularly women with HIV/AIDS who are pregnant will have a

greater impact when they do not want to seek treatment to prevent transmission

to their babies (Maman et al. 2009). The Province of Central Java is the sixth

most number of cumulative HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia. In March 2014, the

cumulative number of HIV infections was 7,584, while the cumulative number

of AIDS was 3,339 cases with 978 cases by deaths (Shaluhiyah et al. 2015). The

high mortality rate is most likely due to people with HIV/AIDS not having the

opportunity to get optimal care due to the high stigma and discrimination among

the community (Shaluhiyah et al. 2015).

With “low” knowledge and education, prejudice (stigma) and discrimination

against people infected with HIV/AIDS still occur in the community. Many

people refuse to be friends with people infected with HIV/AIDS. Even if there

were no evictions from their environment, there were still many people who

were reluctant to involve people infected with HIV/AIDS in their activities.

Apart of that, experience or negative attitudes towards people infected with

HIV/AIDS are considered as factors that can influence the emergence of prejudice

(stigma) and discrimination. Opinions about HIV/AIDS is a curse disease due

to immoral behavior also greatly influences people to behave towards people

infected with HIV/AIDS. Prejudice (stigma) and discrimination makes people

infected with HIV/AIDS treated differently from others and get an unfair action.

Prejudice (stigma) and discrimination arise because people do not know about

the information of HIV/AIDS in particular how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and

how to prevent it. Prejudice (stigma) and discrimination are obstacles in preventing

HIV/AIDS transmission and treatment. In addition, prejudice (stigma) and discrimination against people infected with HIV/AIDS also causes people who

have symptoms or are suspected of having HIV/AIDS are reluctant to do tests

to determine the status of HIV/AIDS because if the results are positive, they are

afraid of being rejected by the family. People infected with HIV/AIDS will close

themselves and tend not to interact with family, friends, and neighbors. This is

because some people think that people with HIV/AIDS are people who have bad

behaviors, such as women sex workers, drug users, and homosexuals.

IV. The Role of Islam in Viewing HIV/AIDS in Asia and Southeast Asia

Apart from the “high” prejudice (stigma) and discrimination against people

infected with HIV/AIDS, religious issue, in this case Islam, is also very

influential. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has

reported the total HIV population of North Korea, Middle East and predominantly

Muslim Asian countries to nearly 1 million (UNAIDS 2005). It seems no country

has been unaffected by HIV/AIDS, including predominantly Muslim countries.

Asia is known as the most populous Muslim region in the world and has been