Against All Odds :
HIV/AIDS epidemic among indigenous Papuans in Indonesia.
Papua is the largest province in Indonesia and it is home to approximately 1 percent of Indonesia’s population. However, almost 40 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia are located in the region. Currently, Papua has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the country with 15 times higher than the national average and three out of every four people infected with HIV/AIDS in Papua are indigenous Papuans.
HIV/AIDS has become a general epidemic in Papua and Indigenous Papuans are the most vulnerable facing the highest risk of HIV/AIDS transmission, stigma and marginalized well-being, and mortality. Against All Odds examines some of the factors responsible for the pandemic including lack of HIV/AIDS education and awareness, inadequate access to health services and support, limited economic capacity, and stigma. Most importantly, this project illustrates the impact of these shortcomings on indigenous Papuans directly affected including children, young men and women, wives and husbands, families, and the community.
This project first examines awareness of HIV/AIDS, which is very low among indigenous Papuans. Their knowledge of how the disease is spread and how to prevent infection is still very limited. In Papua 99% the HIV virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse 99% of the time and prostitution both formal and informal is common. Nevertheless, condom education and promotion is relatively low. Condom endorsements still a taboo and rarely discussed in public or learning institutions. Moreover, information doesn’t reach rural villages in Papua due to lack of transportation, high cost of fuel, difficult terrain, and inefficient method of delivery. Ultimately, lack of information limits one’s capability to make informed decisions to reduce their vulnerability to infection.
Secondly, this project illustrates how limited access to essential health services and insufficient support has made it difficult for indigenous Papuans to get tested for HIV or receive adequate assistance and counseling. The number of staffs with sufficient training and availability of necessary medical equipments and adequate facility to provide quality assistance and care are limited. Moreover, most clinics that provide support and preventive services are located too far from those living in rural areas.
Due to economic disparities, indigenous Papuans are most susceptible to poverty and malnutrition. High cost of transportation is a huge obstacle for those living far away from health facilities to get assistance. Furthermore, rehabilitation is prolonged and maintenance of health is often difficult due to limited income among Indigenous Papuans to purchase wholesome and nutritious food.
Ultimately, misunderstandings of HIV/AIDS due to lack of information, sustained by visual symptoms or sufferings and death of those with HIV/AIDS from limited access to sufficient health services and assistance reinforces stigma. This project also examines how fear of abuse, persecution and ostracism from community and family members has made secrecy the primary concern rather than treatment to many living with HIV/AIDS.
This project aims to raise awareness that could lead to better care for indigenous Papuans. Access to information and care and efficient preventive treatment and support are the cornerstones of effective responses to HIV/AIDS. These essentials must be available to ensure the longevity of indigenous Papuans.
Follow Andri’s progress on the project at our ‘Updates’ section!