Transvestites and AIDS – out of the closet – Zaky Yamani, Contributor, Bandung

She is tall and slim, her skin is clean and her hair drops down to her shoulders. When speaking, she does so with a soft, polite voice.

Mbak (sister) Riri, as she is known to her friends, heads Srikandi Pasundan Foundation, a non-governmental organization that provides counseling on HIV/AIDS for transvestites in West Java.

Riri is conversant about HIV/AIDS among transvestites. She said twenty of 5,000 transvestites had been infected with HIV and have been marginalized: isolated by the community, deprived of legal protection, economic welfare and medical treatment.

“The people loathe transvestites, let alone those living with HIV/AIDS,” Riri said, hoping that the sentiment would die out.