Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Terry traveled hundreds of miles from his village in Lani Jaya to reach the main hospital in Wamena. His family paid over $100 to charter a vehicle for transportation. Already in the late stages of AIDS (Stage 4), Terry was carried onto a stretcher because he was too weak to walk. He had stopped taking his ARV medication because he lived too far from the health center that provided refills and follow-up care.
Many health facilities that provide services and support for HIV/AIDS are located mainly in cities, far away from the majority of indigenous Papuans who live in rural villages. Due to Papua's arduous terrain, these health centers are often reachable only by planes or sport utility vehicles. However, the high costs of fuel and expensive fare for transportation means that native Papuans living outside urban settings have limited access to essential care and treatment.
In Jayawijaya, a mountainous region in central Papua, the average cost for a round trip on public transportation to a neighboring town could cost as much as one's daily earning. Gas can cost up to $20 per gallon and one might have to travel a full day or more just to reach the nearest health center. As a result, those who are too sick to make the long journey or cannot afford to pay for transportation end up without treatment. And those who are fortunate enough to get to a clinic or hospital often wait too long before making the trip. In many cases, they arrive at the medical center in critical condition with little hope of surviving.