2018 Photobook Award Finalist
Saya Positif (I am Positif), by Andri Tambunan
Tanah Papua, located in the easternmost part of Indonesia, has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the country.
Many improvements have been made to create better access to quality care and medicine. Still, the biggest obstacles that remain are the stigmas and discrimination directed at people who live with HIV/AIDS or at a risk of HIV infection.
The majority of the public in Tanah Papua still perceives HIV/AIDS to mean suffering, dishonor, and death. Due to fear of discrimination people often postpone or avoid getting tested for HIV. Without knowing their status, individuals who have contracted HIV are less likely to take preventive measures and will often transmit the virus to their spouses or significant others. Stigma and discrimination also discourage those already living with HIV/AIDS to seek out lifesaving treatments such as (ARV) Antiretroviral medicine necessary to maintain their health by suppressing the virus’ progress in the body.
Fear of abuse, persecution, and ostracism from family members and the community have made secrecy and denial the primary concern over seeking care. Moreover, internal stigma perpetuates shame, guilt, rejection, and hopelessness that undervalue social roles and a sense of belonging. In the end, suffering and mortality are inevitable. It’s a vicious cycle because the images of anguish and death reinforce the stigma and discrimination.
I am Positif, profiles seven individuals who are HIV positive. Contrary to the negative stereotype, they are strong, healthy, productive, resilient, and hopeful. They are devoted parents, loving sons and daughters, and contributing members of their families and communities. Their incredible testimonies are not only a source of inspiration but also act as evidence necessary to counter the misconceptions about the illness and to help end stigma and discrimination in Tanah Papua.
Initially, photography started as a medium to capture a fleeting moment in time. As for self-expression, the camera allows me to connect to the world and convey my thoughts and ideas through pictures. I use photography as a vehicle to explore the world and make personal connections to my surroundings. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of photography to me is its ability to connect people regardless of distance, time, and differences. I believe in the power of images and as a documentary photographer, I aim to use photography as a tool to inform and to move people into action. I realize that having a camera in my hand gives me both a rare privilege and a profound responsibility. I believe that activism through visual imagery is also a powerful instrument to affect social change. Beyond still photographs, I employ various visual mediums including printed publications, multimedia presentations, social media, and online media to engage the audience.
I am based in Jakarta / Bali, Indonesia. Currently, I divide my time between commissioned assignments and self-initiated projects focusing on social, environmental, and human rights issues. I have worked on environmental campaigns for Greenpeace International and produced I Am Positif a multiplatform initiative to help end HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in Papua, Indonesia. My photographs have been featured in various international publications and selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress Permanent Photography Collection, Washington DC. I have also received recognition from Pictures of the Year International (POYi) Emerging Vision Incentive, Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant, PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Awards, and Open Society Foundation Engagement Audience Grant.
Finalist Gallery with Captions
The Invisible Photographer Awards 2018 is proudly supported by G-Technology AP, Sony Singapore, GetIT Comms, Grenadier Press, Exactly Foundation, Photo Kathmandu, Spoon Creative and Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film.