15 Feb 2013 15:00
HIV/AIDS in the highlands of Indonesia Papua
The fact that HIV infection is higher among ethnic Papuans is representative of greater socio-economic inequalities. Much remains to be done to reach the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development goals. In Papua, the severity of the situation has been completely underestimated by the authorities and so far, their response to the epidemic has been severely inadequate. In order to decrease dissatisfaction with their rule, a general attitude of the Indonesian government has been to provide local governments in Papua with large amounts of money. It is then assigned to various programs without proper preliminary research and subsequent monitoring. The actual causes of the problem however, are rarely tackled. The poor standards or complete lack of health services and education throughout the region not only facilitate the spread of the disease, they also severely impede any efficient response to the epidemic. Indeed, although the provincial governments have made HIV testing and treatment free, many Papuans do not have access to health care or education and are unlikely to be reached by awareness raising campaigns any time soon. In the meantime, the virus continues its deadly advance into the highlands.