Yayan (not his real name), 29, a patient at the VCT clinic of the RSD dr. Soebandi hospital in Jember, was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2007.
"I want to enjoy Ramadan like the other normal Muslims do," said Yayan, who attempted to fast for Ramadan.
As a Muslim undergoing medical treatment for a serious disease, Yayan had no religious obligation to fast.
However, he forced himself do so although he adapted it in line with the treatment he had been receiving.
"So far I'm still fasting. Hopefully I will be able to do so until the end of Ramadan to repay my sins."
Yayan contracted HIV/AIDs through the use of intravenous drugs.
While other Muslims can fast from dawn to dusk continuously, Yayan had to have a break at 7 a.m. to take medicine.
Yayan was undergoing an antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, which required him to take the ARV medicine every 12 hours, exactly at 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. everyday.
If he deviated from the schedule, he was at risk of making the virus more resistant to the medicine.
If he became more resistant, he would have to start using another medication that was neither available in Jember nor subsidized.
"That is why I don't recommend people with HIV/AIDS, especially those in an ARV treatment, to fast," said Justina Evy Tyaswati, a doctor at the hospital.
"But of course I just cannot prevent them from doing so as it's a matter of faith. What I can do is advise them to keep taking their medicine according to the schedule," Justina said.
Ali Santoso, another doctor at the clinic, had a different view.
He said ARV medicines such as Zidovudin, Lamivudin, Stavudin, Duviral and Nevirapine, which were provided at the clinic, actually had a compromised schedule of between one and four hours.
Ali said this meant that it would be safe for a person with HIV/AIDS to take the medicine within a range of 10 and 14 hours, just like the fasting hours in Indonesia.
He was convinced such a practice would only pose a very small risk especially because it was only done for a month.
"Yet, no matter how small is the risk, the patients have to go back to the initial schedule as soon as the fasting month is over."
He added, there was an ARV medicine, called Atripla, which a patient had to take only once a day before going to bed.
"Unfortunately, it's not yet available in Indonesia," he said.
He therefore strongly suggested that HIV/AIDS patients did not push themselves too hard to fast if their health condition was worsening and to return to the initial schedule right away if that happened.
"It's better not to take the risk," Ali said. Head of religious affairs of the Jember Religious Affairs Agency, Hamam, concurred, saying that fasting was obligatory only for those who were capable of doing so both mentally and physically.
"It's not mandatory for people who are suffering from serious diseases or elderly persons not capable of fasting," he said.
"It's no use to push oneself to fast and make a break in within just to take a medicine. It's just the same as not fasting."