|It takes one hour for Yanti to reach the clinic facility at the Pasar Rebo Puskesmas (community health center) in East Jakarta.
The 30-year-old transsexual says she does not mind the long drive for her routine HIV check, known as a voluntarily counseling test (VCT), as well as tests for other sexual transmitted infections (IMS), because she feels comfortable with the medical staff.
“Doctors here are friendly and open minded. We are comfortable getting ourselves examined here,” she said on Saturday after the clinics regular Sabtu Sehat (Healthy Saturday) program.
Yanti said she recommended the clinic for its staff, who were willing to accommodate transsexuals, as well as for its affordable and sometimes free treatment.
“My income is not stable. I sometimes can only earn Rp50,000 [US$4] a day, so I cannot afford an expensive test,” she said, adding that other clinics charged more than
Rp100,000 for similar tests.
She said that results were available on the same day, so she did not have to go back and forth.
Yanti, a street singer and sex worker, said that it was not easy to find such services for transsexuals, as she often faced discrimination at other health centers.
“Once, I was asked to wait for hours like a fool, but then the nurse said the doctor had already gone home,” she said.
Due to its fast and friendly service, the IMS and HIV clinic at Pasar Rebo has become a favorite destination among homosexuals and transsexuals. The clinic receives at least 350 patients from those communities each month.
A counselor at the clinic, 39-year-old Siwi Hartati, said the medical staff tried to make their patients comfortable, even using dictionaries to master their unique slang.
“So when they come for consultation, we can directly ask, ‘when did you last miow?’, which means when was the last time they had sexual intercourse,” Siwi said, laughing.
Siwi said the clinic also promoted safe sex by giving free condoms to visitors. “We put condoms in strategic places like the pharmacy, the receptionist’s desk and even the security post, so people can grab them easily,” she said, adding that 7,000 condoms were distributed every month.
Lenny Sugiharto, the chairwoman of the Srikandi Sejati Foundation NGO that focuses on public health in the transsexual community, said more and more of people were willing to get tested.
“Such a clinic that offers a good service is really needed, because it is easy for transsexuals to feel uncomfortable,” she said.
Lenny said the foundation worked with other groups to expand its reach. “Today, we’ve brought 20 transsexuals with their spouses, so they can take the test together,” she said.
Srikandi Sejati currently works with around 3,000 transsexuals in Jakarta. Data from the foundation says around 1,200 transsexuals have been tested for HIV and more than 400 tested positive.
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