Indonesia has the fourth largest number of Facebook users of any nation in the world, and Jakarta is the world’s most Twitter-active city. It is also an Islamic-majority country where talking about HIV remains taboo, and despite all that online activity, social media has stayed largely silent on the topic. However, this January TemanTeman.org launched a website and social media network that uses Indonesian celebrities to promote HIV awareness. “Social media plays such a vital role in peoples’ daily lives, and is an effective way to normalize HIV testing and disseminate HIV awareness and safe-sex messages,” says Tarandeep Anand, creative director of the campaign.
Actor Mario Lawalata gets an HIV test in Jakarta.
TemanTeman.org is an initiative of the Bangkok-based Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center and is co-sponsored by amfAR’s TREAT Asia program and ViiV Healthcare. It was modeled on a similar outreach initiative in Thailand called Adam’s Love—also sponsored by TREAT Asia—that targets MSM. Adam’s Love was the first HIV “edutainment” project in Asia using celebrities to promote HIV awareness, and since its 2011 launch its website has had over 75 million hits. “Until the Adam's Love website, previous efforts to utilize the Web and social media to promote HIV prevention messaging had inconsistent impact,” says Annette Sohn, M.D., director of TREAT Asia and amfAR vice president. “We now have an opportunity to build on this innovative model, and adapt it for use in Indonesia.”
TemanTeman ambassador Diane Sastro gets an HIV test.
TemanTeman is an Indonesian term for friends often used when addressing a large audience, and the campaign targets all at-risk populations, instead of focusing on MSM like Adam’s Love. In Indonesia, 0.3% of the general population is HIV positive, but the rate is increasing, rising 25% between 2001 and 2011. More than 5% of MSM and 36% percent of injection drug users are estimated to be HIV positive, but because the topic is taboo, awareness and testing remain low in all groups, and the actual rates could be much higher. At Jakarta’s Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, 60% of patients diagnosed with HIV have a CD4 count below 200, meaning they are already severely immune compromised at the time of diagnosis, and have likely been positive for quite some time.
Celebrity brand ambassadors Joe Taslim and Diane Sastro
pose in a photo tweeted by Taslim.
TemanTeman.org brand ambassadors Joe Taslim, an Indonesian model, actor, and former Judo athlete, and Dian Sastro, an Indonesian model and actress, each reach nearly a million social media followers with their HIV messages. The TemanTeman.org website currently features fashion photography and over 50 videos on sexual health, and the TemanTeman team will continue to ramp up their online content before holding an official launch press conference in November. In August, they filmed actor and model Mario Lawalata getting an HIV test for a soon-to-be-posted video on the three simple steps of HIV testing—pre-test counseling, testing, and post-test counseling.
Currently, TemanTeman.org has partnered with six healthcare centers in Jakarta and Bali, where anyone who gets an HIV test receives a free TemanTeman.org t-shirt. The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center plans to expand its edutainment approach to HIV awareness to Malaysia some time in 2014. “We are positive that with an approach like this we will be able to reach a wider audience,” says Anand.