When my partner Peter and I visited Bali for the first time in 2008, to get married in a Balinese ceremony and to get away from the stress in our home country Belgium, little did we know that it would change our lives: since then we have returned three times, discovered that HIV infections on the ‘island of the Gods’ are rising alarmingly and that we needed to do something to inform youth about the importance of safe sex, as this is still a huge taboo here.
To give you some idea of the situation around HIV/AIDS in Bali: most new infections occur among women (through heterosexual intercourse) and children (during pregnancy, because their mother is HIV positive often without realizing it), at least 25% of all sex workers (M/F) are seropositive –probably a lot more, since getting tested is not very common yet- and orphanages are filled with young children who lost one or both parents to AIDS; often they are seropositive themselves. Because their diet is usually bad (rice, some vegetables and every now and then a piece of chicken or meat), their small bodies can’t handle the effects of the strong antiretroviral medicines- that is, if their families can afford them and make sure they get taken regularly.
Not being somebody who lets such things happen if there’s only a small possibility of making things better, I started to contact local orphanages, doctors, philanthropists and activists, to see what’s still missing and where DAA can possibly help.
We identified three such possibilities: 1. Help charity Bali Kids (www.balikids.org) to raise money and goods so they can continue their important work in the best way (we will sell Balinese clothes, accessories and interior objects in our next Pop Up Store in Antwerp’s City Hall this May and June- all proceeds will benefit Bali Kids); 2. Organize workshops for hospitality workers in Bali, who are mostly completely ignorant about HIV/AIDS (the first workshops are planned locally for spring 2013) and 3. Reach out to young people using pop culture, the DAA way. Social media play an important role in the lives of Indonesian teenagers –especially Facebook- so if we can get their attention by asking Indonesian and international pop stars, fashion designers, actors and other celebrities to speak out about the need for safe sex, we can ‘speak’ to them directly.
Last year we did a photo shoot with young people in T-shirts by Designers against AIDS and Fashion against AIDS (our annual global collaboration with H&M) who spoke out about HIV/AIDS in Bali and what safe sex meant to them, that was published in Elle Indonesia and this year we asked 5 fashion designers in Bali to customize a DAA T-shirt and to combine that with pieces from their current collection. That way we not only raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, but will also promote creativity and fashion made in Bali. We are hoping to publish the results of our shoot in a popular international magazine and/or website, so that we can raise as much attention as possible.
We have taken the 5 customized T-shirts back to Belgium with us, to use in the exhibition ‘Textile with a Message’ that will be held in September in Turnhout (European Capital of Culture 2012) with all our other slogan/customized T-shirts from the last 10 years.
On Saturday April 21, Belgian NGO Designers against AIDS (DAA) organized a fashion shoot at W Retreat & Spa in Seminyak to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Bali. Five fashion designers living and/or working in Bali customized a DAA T-shirt and these were shot on professional models, combined with clothes from the current collections of the following participating designers: Oka Diputra, Blackheart by Maria Agnes Bong, Naco- Paris, Balilab and Johnny Ramli.
Production & text: Ninette Murk for Designers against AIDS
Photographer: Dewandra Djelantik,
Styling and coordination: Angie Anggoro
Models: Naomi Samara, Hendry David and Blair Anthony
With thanks to W Retreat & Spa Seminyak Bali for the wonderful location