Punching discrimination in the face

How boxing saved the life of a person with HIV.

Not far from Daarut Tauhid, one of the biggest Islamic boarding schools in Bandung, Indonesia, there is a house.

The house, in the Gegerkalong area, has several food stalls in its front yard.

Students from the Islamic boarding school buy and eat their meals at the stalls.

The whole area has a serene and religious atmosphere.

On the side of the house, there is a dark alley. After walking through it, I am welcomed by a boxing ring, loud music and the sweaty smell of hard work.

Beside the boxing ring is a small pavilion where people are working on the punching mitts and heavy bags; most of them are covered in tattoos.

The juxtaposition of images between the front yard and the backyard of the house is jarring to me.

For a moment I think I have been teleported into another world - I am always suspicious of dark alleys.

Jimmy, who heads sports development for the house, Rumah Cemara, greets me with a smile.

"That pavilion used to be a hen house," he says. "Members of the gym are growing. We need a bigger space."

Big things often have humble beginnings.

The boxing gym is one of Rumah Cemara's ways of helping those who live with HIV/Aids or drug addiction, by keeping them fit through sports, providing a space for community and giving them a chance to demonstrate what they can do for their communities.

Here, those with HIV/Aids or recovering from drug addictions, engage with the wider community through sports.

I can't help but ask Jimmy if they ever receive complaints from the Islamic boarding school.
He smiles again.

"We invited the ustadz (teacher) of the boarding school, and he came to give us his blessing."

I nod as I look at one of the corners of the gym where there's a sign for Rumah Cemara Boxing Camp. Under it is an inscription that reads: Indonesia Without Stigma.

Amen to that.

More than 600,000 are living with HIV in Indonesia, according to UNAIDS. Sharing of contaminated needles among injecting drug users and unsafe heterosexual sex are the two main modes of HIV/Aids transmission. Fear of stigma and discrimination fuels resistance to testing, treatment and education. Rumah Cemara is working to end that stigma and discrimination. You can get involved at www.rumahcemara.or.id

About Rumah Cemara

Rumah Cemara was started by five former drug users as a support group for drug addicts and people who are HIV-positive, and advocate for these communities. As of 2017, it has reached out to 3,794 drug users with its harm reduction programmes, and 1,920 drug users with opioid substitution therapy.


Director & Writer

Tumpal Tampubolon

Video Editor

Ahmad Yuniardi


Patar Prabowo