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17 Dec 2010

Positive Voices: Yogie Wirastra

Positive Voices is an ongoing series featuring Asian LGBT individuals who are HIV-positive and are living positively.

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It was a double blow for 20-year-old Yogie Wirastra who found out he was HIV-positive shortly after his boyfriend was killed in a traffic accident. That was eight years ago and for many years he did not tell anyone about his infection until four years ago when he finally told someone – a close friend.

Just two months ago, Yogie came out to his father, whom he wasn't close to, as being gay and HIV-positive. To his surprise, his father told him that he was sorry – not because he is positive, but because he was not there to comfort him when he (Yogie) received his test result.

Now 28, Yogie is a freelance web programmer and volunteers at the MSM&TG Task force of JOTHI (Jaringan Orang Terinfeksi HIV Indonesia or PLHIV network in Indonesia). A native of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, he is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he is working on a project with AIDS Alliance and Malaysian Aids Council. He says he plans to stay in Malaysia for the time being as Yogyakarta is still reeling from the devastation caused by the recent eruption of Mount Merapi that killed over 350 people and made nearly 400,000 refugees.

Yogie shares his journey from learning his positive status to finally reaching out to join a support group five years later and helping others cope with being positive.

Photos courtesy of Yogie Wirastra.

æ: When did you test positive for HIV?

Yogie: In 2002 when my partner died in a traffic accident. It was revealed that he had pneumonia and the doctor suspected he had HIV. I got tested three months after the funeral.

æ: Did you share the news of your initial positive test result with someone?

Yogie: No. I felt ashamed, lost and sad. I thought sharing the test result might worsen my situation. It took me almost four years to finally tell someone about my status. It was my close friend, and he tried his best to accept it in his own way. Last month, I disclosed my status about being gay and HIV+ to my father.

æ: Has your HIV status changed your sex life significantly? If so, how?

Yogie: Yes, for over four years, I lost my sexual desire to the extent of avoiding any sex-related discussion and potential situations. After I had finally reached out to join a support group in 2007, I began to feel better about myself, and enjoy meeting people although still not comfortable with engaging in sexual activities with anyone. It took me another couple of years to finally enjoy sexual pleasure.

æ: Has your approach to love and relationships changed since you found out you were HIV-positive? Why?

Yogie: Yes. Because I felt like I have the ability to pass the virus to someone else, even though I use a condom, and there’s the guilt factor following the act.

æ: How do you decide whether to tell someone your HIV status?

Yogie: At the beginning I thought I would never tell enyone about this and will keep it myself till I die. But the more support I got and the more people were accepting, I became more confident in disclosing my status. So now, it never bothers me when people find out about my status.

æ: What is one myth about living with HIV that you’ve now realised was incorrect?

Yogie: That someone who has HIV will soon have AIDS after five years. I have been living with HIV for more than eight years without treatment, without any symptom of Opportunistic Infections (OI) and mantain a CD4 count of around 400. So I believe that being HIV-positive is not a death sentence.

æ: Tell us about one of your most memorable disclosure stories (friends, family, colleagues/bosses, doctors, partner or dates, etc).

Yogie: It happennd recently. This was a month of Eid al-Fitr – a time for Muslims to celebrate after Ramadan. I disclosed my status to my father, both being gay and HIV-positive. My father told me that he knew I was gay all along, but he not want to talk about it because he did not want me to feel down or feel unacepted. With regards to HIV, he was sorry not because I’ve HIV, but he was sorry that he was not there to comfort me when I received the test result. He said: “Keep telling me your story, I’m here to listen”.

That was really something for me that he wanted to be my “friend”. I was never close to my father. In facr I’m very close to my mother but yet I have no idea why I decided to tell my father instead of my mom. I guess I just wanted to make peace with him.

æ: Has your relationship with your family and friends changed or evolved after you found out you are HIV-positive? If so, how?

Yogie: Yes, I’m trying to be closer to them. Since I was kid, I have lived with my grandmother until I went to college. When we have family gatherings, everyone (my brothers and sister) always have stories about when they were kids, except me. There’s no “me” in their story. So I’m trying to have some sharing moment with them.

æ: Have you started Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART)? 

Yogie: No. As my doctor told me to wait before I start treatment, as my CD4 count and Viral Load is still at a reasonably good level.

[Editor's Note: World Health Organization guidelines recommend early diagnosis, treatment and regular medical check-ups for people living with HIV. Starting of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is managed on a case-by-case basis and should be discussed with your doctor. If you require assistance contacting HIV healthcare workers in your local area please contact us at webmaster@fridae.com (all communication will remain strictly confidential).] 

æ: What challenges, if any, have you found in pursuing a career and living with HIV?

Yogie: Sometimes it makes me think twice whenever a health test requirement is needed. 

At the time when I tested positive, I used to work in a garden furniture export company providing customer care service. Although I did not face any discrimination at work, my HIV status prevented me from receiving insurance and other benefits like social security and pension plan. I quit the job because I felt I was being valued less with my HIV, and yet I still had to pay the same amount of taxes and insurance premiums. Neither could I unsubscribe from the insurance service because it is supposed to be compulsory according to company regulation.

æ: Have you ever experienced discrimination on the basis of your HIV status from government agencies (eg. police, health workers, schools, employment officials, immigration agencies) or other areas (employers, businesses, clubs, etc). If so, please tell us what happened.

Yogie: There were times when I was denied dental treatment even when I’m only asking for dental scaling (from two dental clinics in two public hospitals) whenever I disclose my status by telling me I’ve arrived too late, or that the clinic was already closed, or my situation needs to be handled by a specialist. But now I’m a patient at one dental clinic in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) where they are providing me good care and treatment following my disclosure.

æ: Can you share one humorous or odd thing about your life with HIV?

Yogie: I have several online profiles on some gay social sites, and I had tried to use my positive status to scare away people whom I’m not attacted to, but people now are not afraid to engage with HIV-positive people, which is a good thing. So now I’ve to come up with a different excuse!

æ: What needs to happen in order for people living with HIV to feel more comfortable about telling people about their status?

Yogie: To make peace with themselves and accepting the fact that they will have HIV as their friend for the rest of their lives no matter how hard they deny it.

æ: Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV is often quite challenging for everyone. What is one simple thing that people could do to encourage more acceptance in the community?

Yogie: Be gorgeous and fabulous. *smiles. HIV and AIDS are often associated with “body wasting”, cancerous skin and other nasty stuff. Show people that it is the VIRUS to avoid, not the PERSON who is living with it. 

æ: What is one thing that you want to do in the future to help the LGBT or PLHIV community?

Yogie: I want to see that LGBTs and PLHIV stop giving up on themselves or suffering, I don’t know how I would be able to do that but I’m starting with myself. I’m trying not to give up or suffer, I wish other people will see and stand up for their life. 

æ: What motivates and inspires you for the future?

Yogie: My boyfriend. I have a partner who tells me he is willing to be by my side until the end of my life. That is one promise that keeps me alive.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.

If you are HIV-positive and living in Asia, and want to share your story, please write to editor@fridae.com.

Look out for PositiveVoices.Net, a soon-to-be-launched social networking site for HIV-positive gay men and transgender people living in Asia built around their shared experience of living with HIV.

Indonesia

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-12-17 21:12  
One more story for us to learn about courage!
Don't forget there are many silent supporters around the world.
2. 2010-12-18 00:13  
a nice story and good learning values for me :) thanks for sharing to us your story Yogi!
3. 2010-12-18 00:31  
I admire your bravery of Coming Out...GOD Bless You!
4. 2010-12-18 00:55  
What a handsome man, inside and out!!

Thank you for sharing.

p.s. I hope I was not one of those guys you tried to scare off!! hahaha
5. 2010-12-18 00:55  
What a handsome man, inside and out!!

Thank you for sharing.

p.s. I hope I was not one of those guys you tried to scare off!! hahaha
6. 2010-12-18 00:57  
you're truly inspirational Yogie...
7. 2010-12-18 01:13  
You're amazing! I hope your story will continue to give encouragement to others--and will teach society to be more caring. You're making a difference.
8. 2010-12-18 02:05  
In 5 month time, I will go for another checking. I wish I am clean.

9. 2010-12-18 02:14  
Bravo Yogie...Your story is very well. I wish all the best and hope evrything goes well...
10. 2010-12-18 03:13  
You are a true inspiration.
All my best wishes to you.
Martin
x
11. 2010-12-18 04:30  
I think it is great to read these stories here in this space. I think this is honest and real. A positive message for other people living with HIV and their gay friends.
Comment #12 was deleted by its author on 2010-12-18 08:48
13. 2010-12-18 08:28  
God bless you.
14. 2010-12-18 09:08  
HIV is something we can deal and live with, when we have one. Yoga proves this with his health condition. Live positively to the life its self. Inspiring moment Yoga, big thanks :)
15. 2010-12-18 09:47  
Hi Yogie - that is a wonderful story. You are a role model for guys who have the virus. I don't have it but know a few guys that do. They cope ok - but I am going to refer them to your story as I am sure it will inspire them.

Dennis.
16. 2010-12-18 10:02  
I am happy for you that your dad has somehow accepted you. That's the most encouraging experience you can ever get from your loved ones.

Keep up the fighting spirit. I wish you all the best in your relationship and may you find true love , happiness and most of all the fire to keep going. Cheerio :)
17. 2010-12-18 10:18  
Yes Yogie, it is very painful living those years before one actually shares the problem with others, but then one realises there are lots of human beings out there and not everyone judges an HIV person to be bad. I hope your story will help others to come out in their Gay life and even in their situation if they are HIV positive, I live in Asia so I know the difficulties for Asians and especaillly the family connections.

Being HIV is not a death sentance now-a-days guys and girls and there are lots of people willing to help one get over the first difficult times when one finds out they are positive. Red Triangle & Exco in K.L. are two great support group.
18. 2010-12-18 10:25  
your a great guy Yogie, Proof that our community is made up of amazing people. Thank you for making my day. all the best and stay in contact with us.
19. 2010-12-18 10:25  
This is an inspiring story and a positive reminder that the world need not discriminate towards people who are HIV positive. HIV is not selective or exclusive to a stereo typical person and we must all maintain an awareness and an openness to this disease. This person has made a choice to not be a victim and share their story to encourage others to feel the same. Well done and stay gold!
20. 2010-12-18 11:13  
Fantastic guy, story, and father.
21. 2010-12-18 12:34  
This man is such an inspiration.
22. 2010-12-18 12:50  
Hi yogie.
It is very inspirational message. This message gave to others as the inspiration and courage to thier lives. I know lots of people who loves you and admire you. God bless.
23. 2010-12-18 14:39  
Yogie;

I was disturbed to see mandatory subscription/premium payments to insurance with legal denial of coverage combined. That had to be so mentally challenging to face.......... and alone.

I love your father!!!!!!!! What a hero ;D

We are glad you are here, Yogie. Your future is bright.
24. 2010-12-18 14:59  
Yogie,
you such a brave and high confidence level... that i what i am envy on you.... ur family, friends, and ur bf........ is totally different though in accepting u and others.... thank god with it.... you inspiring me too yogie...hugs....
25. 2010-12-18 16:10  
Yogie weve been friends since last sept and I know will be forever I so Proud of you doing this though im a bit sad and tears fell on my face. Thasnk you so much my friend! Thank you for being there thank you for caring about me. I love you and im proud of you! icant feel anything now im so numb. But all I know is my heart is crying and I want to be there with you! I LOVE YOU YOGIE!!!my love is always there!
26. 2010-12-18 16:23  
It is a medical faux in our history because HIV is harmless itself. Check this out rethinkingaids.com. Now those who were sentenced in jail for infecting others are coming out of jail freely in US. Omsj.com
Do reseach and find out yourself. Don't take any poisoning drugs.
27. 2010-12-18 17:44  
Kudos ... Perhaps you are one of the few who are naturally immune, or able to overcome the typical viral effects. Regardless, it is good to hear another heartwarming story about this.
28. 2010-12-18 18:03  
Thanks for sharing and all the best wishes Yogie !
29. 2010-12-18 20:20  
the same story goes for many who live with any possibly contagious dis-ease it's good to see a young extremely handsome honourable young man living his life with such authenticity and of course a wonderful reminder that Moslem parents can and and DO care for their Gay kids given all the to frequent bad publicity.
rethinkingaids.com. sites like these should be treated with caution the lunatic fringe of HIV denial? is often behind them and ARE discredited but unfortunately the internet is full of shite just like the neo nazi holocaust deniers and other whack job conspiricy theorists.
I have a former lover who was infected by his lover who hid his HIV status from him shamefully and engaged him in unsafe behaviour months intyo dating as a result he seroconverted and was an 'early progressor' and had not the newer drugs in the late 90's come along he would be dead now and so it goes for so many others, I nursed him through that period it makes my blood boil reading Aids denial material
Comment edited on 2010-12-18 20:38:26
30. 2010-12-19 02:01  
thank your so much for sharing this Yogie.

I think, at the same time, you are so lucky tht you can come out with your family, especially with your dad. I understand that this is very hard in a muslim culture. Originally, I m from M'sia..so i kinda understand that culture but I m so glad to hear there are brave people like you. Your actions will help educate the society to be more open and accepting.

warm hugs!
31. 2010-12-19 04:27  
to aztlan, lunatic? I am medically trained and have lots of researches in hands. So you can choose not to believe or think about it. Good luck for those who are stigmatized with AIDS=HIV=DEATH.

youtube it and type " luc Montagnier" nobel prize in 2008 fot the discovery og hiv.
32. 2010-12-19 05:25  
brave hearted guy! We do care and love u! amities forever
33. 2010-12-19 06:12  
It's very good to have read through your story. It gives me courage to fight on with my life. Still, I'm HIV-negative. I always go for the test every three months. But who knows what may come. I'm ready for anything that will happen. You is considered as one of my great people.
34. 2010-12-19 09:14  
Thank you for sharing your story. I am sure it will inspire many people and makes sure I keep safe. Thank you.
35. 2010-12-19 11:44  
Awesome and inspiring to read this . Thanks for sharing .
36. 2010-12-19 11:54  
Awesome story Yogie. I'm glad things are looking up for you now :) p.s ur super cute.
37. 2010-12-19 14:19  
i salute u for ur braveness yogie not much ppl have the wheel power likes ur...smile always
38. 2010-12-19 14:19  
i salute u for ur braveness yogie not much ppl have the wheel power likes ur...smile always
39. 2010-12-19 16:07  
(My boyfriend. I have a partner who tells me he is willing to be by my side until the end of my life. That is one promise that keeps me alive.)

(THIS IS SO SWEET AND INSPIRING)

Whoever Yogi your boyfriend is, your sO Lucky to have him, Life is certainly a magnificent journey as long as someone wants to share the ups and down of it!

to Yogi's BF: I admire you for that, I wish to have an attitude like you. :)
40. 2010-12-19 19:56  
This interview really brought some light into my night. Will post the link on twitter and hope more of my friends read it.
41. 2010-12-19 21:27  
Yogie Wirastra thank you very much for sharing your story, I am planing to show that to my very good friend, he is also HIV.
I remember I was trying not to cry when he told me, I was worry because of the sociaety. As your father I was sad because he said that to me after a year and I guess he did it because I moved to his house and he felt in a way he has to tell me...so I could not help him the fisrt year. Now I am very happy beause he decided to joing HIV group and meeting more people with HIV, some time he feel we can not understand him because we are not HIV.
I wish he find a boyfriend like you did.
Thank you
BTW you are super cute hahahhaa
Comment #42 was deleted by its author on 2010-12-20 06:04
43. 2010-12-20 07:13  
Yogie Wirastra, your bravery and integrity are an inspiration -- thank you for sharing your story. xoxo
44. 2010-12-20 09:30  
A very brave young man. Such courage. More men should be like him. I am proud to have read your story, take care and God speed, Yogie With love from, Andy. xx
45. 2010-12-20 10:36  
You have a wonderful dad and i salute your courage too!
46. 2010-12-20 10:40  
r u work ? r u deppresed ?
47. 2010-12-20 11:25  
Great story, he is gorgeous inside & out and shouldn't have any problem finding a partner.

I had an ex-bf who I was with for 3 years and myself being HIV negative I fully understand the guilt and problems poz guys feel.

He has nothing to be ashamed of and It is great his father loosened up enough to accept him.
Comment #48 was deleted by its author on 2010-12-20 12:42
49. 2010-12-20 12:43  
Life isn't always wonderful if we don't look at it beyond our own defined boader.

Yogie, you across your own defined boader. I'm glad for you. Your father and boyfriend give you so much of unconditional love. With all the support that you are having now, I believe your life isn't just being HIV+ but a person who still lives with hopes, dreams, inspire others and love.

WE all here supporting and LOVING U. If you were in front of me, I would give you a Big Kiss and HUG.

50. 2010-12-20 13:08  
Thankyou
51. 2010-12-20 14:54  
it tells me dont be afraid but be aware! thanks yogie!
52. 2010-12-20 18:16  
Well done ... makes many of us think about the impact this issue has not only on us but those around us.

so brave in so many aspects .. keep smiling , stay happy :)
53. 2010-12-20 21:03  
I am so glad you step out of shadow and share your experience. As you know, culturally all over Asia, not people are willing to be open about their sexuality and their status. Your intention, you are willing to help and share your experience with others and there are so many of us out there living with the virus. You agree there are physical and emotional pain what they are all going through.
I posted myself on Fridae.com a month ago, and am replying to at least 15 people from HK.
I sent a note to editor@fridae.com to inform them I am willing to follow your path. As you know, we cannot do this alone, it's a collective effort to reduce the stigma and discrimination. More so, to offer others hope and confidence to live a life like anyone else.
I have been positve over 20 years. Let's share our experience to help others. Helping others also reinforces outself to be a better person. Agree? let me know if you would like to keep in touch. We have to re-think, re-build the module of approach. We have a socail responsibility to give back to the community. Bring it on !
54. 2010-12-20 21:40  
Goodluck Bro :) Keep d Spirit..
55. 2010-12-21 00:22  
Yogi! I havent thanked you yet! A million thanks, for the inspiration and courage to come out..... God Bless us All!!!!!
56. 2010-12-21 02:57  
Yogi...I love u....I will against HIV/AIDS and believe one day this Virus is nothing to scare....I will said...there is an antidote out there to cure it...before or after infection.....
57. 2010-12-21 12:29  
great story :).
58. 2010-12-23 10:31  
dear all,
im so overwhelmed with number of responses and support i received here, to my emails and facebook. thank you for your kind support. I got speechless reading most of the comments which are so couraging. Thank you all.
I also received quite few sarcartic emails from people whom i met in the past who surprised knowing that I'm positive. Not being defensive but I'd like to say that first I/we use protection aka condom. Secondly: im positive but im young and i can be hot and just like other young people out there i feel like i have equal sexual & reproductive rights. Third, it is not solely reponsibility of positive people to protect others (yes we do), but when it comes to sexual encounters its resposibility of both. If you don't know their status use condom. I believe mostly you wont know.Most eople will avoid conversation about STI or HIV as its a turn off.
"I like you,let have sex, do you have STI?"

When i was 20, i have been so faithful to my late boyfriend (well i believe so hehe), therefore we often did not use condom as in the past they keep promoting the ABC, I thought as long as i was faithful i do not need condom.
I was wrong.
Yes we've been faithfull to eachother but we never know our sero-status.

I was surprised many times when I asked friends about wether or not they use condom when having sex with their boyfriend.Their response was, "I always wear condom when meeting people casually, but i NEVER use it with my boyfriend, for what?? he's my boyfriend!"

Please respect PLHIV and f*ck responsibly.
59. 2010-12-23 19:54  
thx so much for sharing.. wish u all the best and good luck ;)
60. 2011-01-05 12:10  
Thank you Yogie shearing your story with us. and your experience. and also you are very handsome.
I am also HIV positive.When I read your story I felt proud about you.you are very courage's person.your story is important to HIV positive people who leaving hiding through fear.you give them encouragement.i Wish you alone and healthy life and hope will do more productive work.





61. 2011-02-08 14:11  
thank you so much .. May the God's & Goddesses bless you on your journey..
62. 2011-03-12 23:29  
In the American TV series , people living with HIV seem so normal, like a healthy HIV positive university professor living with his cute boyfriend.. HIV is no big deal now, the virus is going away soon, a cure is also around the corner..U are awesome too, Yogie!
63. 2011-05-26 09:31  
Brave and beautiful......double blessings......!!!! all the very best.....
64. 2011-06-13 20:00  
Shocking un-cut footage from Brent Leung's documentary "House of Numbers" reveals truth about AIDS as told by Dr. Luc Montagnier (the Nobel Prize 2008 winner for the discovery of HIV). AIDS can be reversed. Nutrition is the answer. Hear it straight from the co-discoverer of HIV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQoNW7lOnT4

Congratulation to Yogie, keep it up, i was quite surprised when i read your article and learnt that your CD4 count is around 400 cells even after living with HIV+ for 8 years w/o any "treatment". After i done some research, i found that there are many factors that can affect the CD4 count in our body. Some doctors even said CD4 is not a reliable measurement to examine our health.

Kudos to your doctor who told you to wait before you start any "treatment", so many people are asked to start treatment immediatly when their doctor found that their CD4 count is below 500 !! Russian body builders are found to have CD4 count below 250, so should they all be given Anti-retrovirals drugs too??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_N4zgjF0K0
65. 2011-09-03 06:23  
Thank u for sharing....u really touch my heart to read ur nice story, u are truly nice person inside and outside. God bless you...
66. 2011-09-25 14:31  
What an uplifting story... to take a situation like that and make a positive out of it, it takes guts and a lot of courage.
Comment #67 was deleted by an administrator on 2012-11-12 12:49
68. 2012-11-17 07:08  
Thank you for sharing such an amazingly courageous story. It provided me with a view from a different angle. A lot of people I know always think that "it would never happen to me," until it does happen... then they would experience that lost. Honestly, it is no different than hearing news of having cancer or other types of diseases and people with HIV does not need to be alienated.

Humans have the capacity to deal with things that life throws at us, it only shows that you have the strength to pick yourself up and move forward.
69. 2012-12-07 06:34  
I know that policy in Indonesia told that people with HIV should immediately get ART if CD4 is below 350. Is it possible just maintain CD4 without taking ART? (with medical advice of course)

Anyway, it's a great story Yogie, hope you can share more as you and I are from the same country. Many LGBT people in Indonesia still doing sex without condom like you said, and they have no idea about their HIV-status. I agree with both responsibility as you said. your sharing about HIV, help the safe sex campaign, more or less..
Thank you for sharing, you give me strength and courage..
Comment #70 was deleted by an administrator on 2013-12-03 12:15
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72. 2014-06-30 02:47  
Theres nothing more i can add that hasn't already been said about the strength and wonderful character that is Yogie. Well done to him and all others for marching on regardless what comes their way with a smile, even though days when you don't feel like smiling but you still try. Many incredible people out there world wide living and dealing with HIV and difficult situations and making the best of their lives regardless. Only wish I was there when you needed someone to lean on and listen to your problems because it only take one person and a little time to make such a difference.
God bless you all xx
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