Lost to follow up: Limits to accessing HIV care among young men who have sex with men (MSM) in Jakarta

Dr Benjamin Hegarty

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Against a backdrop of an “LGBT moral panic” and creeping regulatory limitations, Indonesia has a worsening HIV epidemic among young men who have sex with men (MSM) in large metropolitan centres. Despite increases in access to HIV testing and medication, as well as education campaigns, approximately one quarter of MSM who receive a positive test result do not continue to receive treatment. Local outreach workers, paid a salary to educate and influence MSM to test, call this group “lost to follow up.” This group is a major source of concern given that HIV is a virus that requires ongoing medication and, in some cases, complex medical care. This paper argues that the large proportion of cases “lost to follow up” among young MSM is not only due to material concerns (such as a lack of medicine) but because many understandably see the visibility that comes with an HIV diagnosis as a considerable personal risk. Ethnographic research and interviews with outreach workers, healthcare workers from Jakarta healthcare clinics and MSM reveals that decreasing the numbers “lost to follow up” requires demonstrating that HIV treatment is not an individual burden, but an ongoing act shared across relations of care.


Benjamin Hegarty is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne. His Ph.D., for which he was awarded the Australia Anthropological Society Thesis Prize, was awarded by the Australian National University in 2018. His research addresses gender and sexuality in Indonesia from an historical and ethnographic perspective.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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