Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Patients are seen through a small window queuing to register at the public health clinic in Wamena.
Wamena currently has 1,894-recorded HIV/AIDS cases, and the number continues to rise. The main public health clinic in Wamena is swamped with over 200 patients a day seeking various forms of health treatment. Those who want to get tested for HIV must line up in the morning and register with everyone else. The cramped HIV testing and counseling room is packed with several clients at a time, leaving no room for privacy and confidentiality. Counselors are unable to spend much time educating patients and addressing their questions. The lab responsible for processing the HIV test must also conduct lengthy tests for various illnesses including malaria and tuberculosis. The overwhelming burden on both the staff and the facility reduces the quality of care. Despite an increasing desire from the public to get tested for HIV, the clinic limits HIV testing to only 10 patients per day. The director of the clinic believes that the cap is necessary to maintain quality control and ensure accurate test results. Nevertheless, sometimes as many as 25 patients visit the clinic to get tested for HIV. When they are turned away, many patients are discouraged to return.