Farewell Professor Wirawan, a giant of public health in Indonesia

News | Published on 23 Sep 2020

Indonesia has lost one of its true leaders in public health with the passing of Professor Dewa Nyoman Wirawan early yesterday in Bali.

Professor Wirawan was Professor of Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine, Udayana University in Denpasar and long-term head of the Postgraduate Public Health Program at Udayana, where he trained and mentored generations of health professionals. In the early phases of the HIV pandemic, he founded the Kerti Praja Foundation to provide treatment and prevention services for people at most risk, one of the first organisations to take on this role in Indonesia. He also established the Foundation as a focus of multiple national and international programs and research collaborations. As a key and longstanding member of the Indonesian Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS expert group, he contributed extensively to policies and program development at both national and provincial level.

“Professor Wirawan was an inspiration to all of us who had the privilege of working with him,” said Professor John Kaldor, from the Kirby Institute’s Public Health Interventions Research Program, who first met him in the 1990s. “His razor-sharp intellect combined with a wonderfully engaging and generous personality, all underpinned by his deep humanitarian principles."

Professor Wirawan established world-class evidence-based services for those most impacted by HIV and other sexually transmissible infections, including women who engaged in sex work, transgender women, and gay men. At a time when many in these communities faced high levels of discrimination, he made sure that his services were accessible and welcoming. His clinical service was at the forefront of innovation, making HIV testing and counselling widely available at a time when it was rare in Indonesia and, later on, being one of the first to introduce HIV treatment regardless of viral load or CD4 count.

Kirby Institute researchers collaborated with Professor Wirawan and his teams at the Kerti Praja Foundation and Udayana University over 20 years, most recently through the HATI project which aimed to improve the uptake of HIV testing and treatment in key populations.

“As deeply as we feel this loss, we can only imagine the impact on our Indonesian colleagues, and particularly those in Bali. Our thoughts are with them, and Professor Wirawan’s family, to whom we send our deepest sympathies and condolences,” said Professor Kaldor.