This week we put the spotlight on Mohamad Shahrani Mohamad Tamrin who was recently appointed representative for gay men and MSM on the Malaysian AIDS Council; and Tono Permana, the national coordinator of GMW-INA – Gay Men, Men who have Sex with Men and Waria in Indonesia – who is responsible for the country's 17,508 islands (of which about 6,000 are inhabited).
This list is by no means exhaustive, but we are sure that this handful of extraordinary individuals will encourage and inspire you. If you know of anyone who you think is doing an amazing job for the greater good – whether they be activists or artists, entrepreneurs or entertainers, send us their details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pulling together a network of organisations that connects gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) people across the Indonesian archipelago of 17,508 islands (of which about 6,000 are inhabited) is no easy feat. And that is just what Tono Permana is trying to do.
Permana is at the helm of GMW-INA – Gay Men, Men who have Sex with Men and Waria (Bahasa Indonesian for transgender people) of Indonesia – and holds the position of national coordinator for the next two years. The network celebrated its first birthday in early 2010 and its very inception got a stamp of approval from the National AIDS Commission ensuring that a much needed ally for MSM and TG is found at the highest echelons of Indonesia’s HIV response.
In a country that is as culturally diverse and geographically fragmented as Indonesia connectors like Permana are indespensible. His warm-hearted and jovial demeanour belies an astute and inituitive sensibility that resulted in GMW-INA building bridges where none have existed before. This deft touch has earned him the respect of his peers and international observers.
Working dilligently behind-the-scenes, Permana and his team are on a mission to reverse a worrying tread: only nine percent of the national HIV awareness and prevention campaigns reaches some of the most-as-risk populations: MSM and transgender people. Even more distressing is the revelation from the National Coordinating Agency for Family Planning that only one percent of the general male population use condoms.
This has led to a recent government admission that Indonesia will likely fall short of its Millenium Development Goals with respect to curbing HIV prevallence among the young, increasing condom use and sexual health awareness. Although the outlook may seem bleak, Permana remains optimistic that the time is ripe for the community to take the lead and care for itself.
æ: Why do you do this work?
I’m doing this work because all [GMW-INA] members rely on my ability to coordinate at a national level. I also have my own ideas related strengthening the network institutional. I see that the biggest obstacle for HIV prevention programs among gay men and transgender is the weakness of institutional management. That’s why the national secretariat is an ideal place to hold capacity building [workshops] for our member.
æ: How do you think you can make positive change happen in 2010?
The involvement of [GMW-INA] in the consultation and coordination process related to the HIV response at a national level has meant better recognition from stakeholders and donor agencies about the urgent need to scale-up the HIV prevention program for MSM and TG. The [GMW-INA] has also been involved in the monitoring of national HIV program and now we are in the process of drafting our National AIDS Strategy and Action Plan for MSM and TG 2010 – 2014. This will have very powerfull impact especially to boost the programs for MSM and TG.
æ: What is your message to people who stand in your way?
I would like to say that gay men and transgenders could also be your family members, your friends or maybe your relatives. We are also part of the community. We do alot of positive things for other people regradless of their sexuality. We help people in need especially related with HIV prevention. So please do not stigmatize us and don’t discriminate us.
Tono Permana can be contacted via GMW-INA at gmw.aids-ina.org
With contributions from Laurindo Garcia, Patty Tumang and Sylvia Tan.