My name is Edo Agustian. I live together with my children and mother in Bogor, a medium-sized city in Indonesia. Since 2006, I have been working in the civil society sphere, focusing particularly on increasing access to harm reduction services for people who use drugs and advocating for humane, evidence-based drug policies.
I first started to get involved in advocacy and drug user organising when I worked as an outreach worker. I saw through my work and experience that people who use drugs desperately needed a voice in Indonesia’s highly criminalised environment. My desire to stand up for drug users’ rights further materialised in 2007, when I was shot in the leg by police officers who were trying to force from me information I did not have regarding drug trafficking. To this day, I live with the pain of that injury as a reminder of the work that I do.
Currently, I am the coordinator of the Indonesian Network of People who Use Drugs (PKNI). PKNI is comprised of 25 groups of at least ten individuals each, and approximately 500 individual members throughout Indonesia. We support people who use drugs, inform them about their health and rights, and encourage them to access available services.
I do not want to see any more people go to prison only because they use drugs
People who use drugs, and particularly those who are also living with HIV, continue to face stigma and discrimination in my country. PKNI aims to make their voices heard. People who use drugs feel supported by their peers through PKNI, and are beginning to speak publicly about the issues related to drug use and living with HIV. Although the visibility of people who use drugs is improving, acceptance by the broader society is still very slow to come by.
PKNI’s advocacy objectives include awareness-raising and advocacy around the prevention and treatment of HIV and hepatitis C, overdose prevention, and decriminalisation of drugs for personal use and possession. Moreover, we advocate for quality improvement of harm reduction services. Presently, there is a shift in the delivery of harm reduction services from the non-governmental sector to community health centres run by the government. This is a step in the right direction. Yet, there are still a number of barriers, such as limited opening hours and poorly trained staff, which affects the quality of the services available and restricts access by the most vulnerable people. Over the past years, PKNI has made huge progress. Nowadays, we openly speak with the National Narcotic Board, and we are regularly approached by the media as one of the primary civil society points of contact on drug policy issues.
My dream is to see, within my lifetime, an improvement in the quality of life and the availability of health care for people who use drugs in Indonesia. I do not want to see any more of my friends and colleagues die due to tuberculosis, overdose, or because they cannot access antiretroviral (ARV) medication or hepatitis C treatment. And importantly, I do not want to see any more people go to prison only because they use drugs. Indonesia needs to build on international momentum and consider the overwhelming evidence in favour of public health and human rights-based drug policies.