Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
L-R: Roni (26) and Mecky (18), each wearing an apron with a diagram of the male and female reproduction organs, participate in a sexual reproduction and HIV/AIDS educational training conducted by the Public Health Development Foundation (YPKM).
In Papua young teenagers are already having sex but HIV/AIDS education are still lacking. GIDI Baptist Church invited teenagers from surrounding villages in Wamena for a weeklong crash course on sex education, family planning, condom, sexual transmitted diseases (STD), and HIV/AIDS. These young adults will return to their villages to serve as peer counselors and provide information and support. However, despite the program's effectiveness, YPKM is lacking funding to continue this important educational course.
For many Papuan youths, their first sexual encounter can take place during their early teenage years. Some are sexually active by the time they reach puberty. Life Skills Education (LSE), a curriculum designed by UNICEF that provides education on human reproduction, pregnancy, sex, Sexual Transmitted Diseases, and HIV/AIDS is taught in many high schools throughout Papua. However, this essential educational course is mainly available in schools located in cities but not in rural areas. Moreover, LSE does not reach many indigenous Papuan youths because many of them are not able to attend high school. In most cases teachers responsible for teaching this course lack sufficient training and essential materials, such as books with up-to-date information and visual aids, to adequately educate their students. They often encourage their students to seek additional information on the Internet. Also, detailed information on condoms is regularly excluded in lectures and reading materials because of the general perception that it will endorse pre-marital sex. As a result, students carry incomplete information, misconceptions and misunderstandings into adulthood, which increases their vulnerability to the epidemic.