Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
A family member finds a "worm" clinging to the wall of the pig's lungs that they believed to be the cause of HIV.
One of the most common practices in the highlands to diagnose and cure HIV is by conducting a traditional ritual termed adat. This involves killing a pig and examining its blood, heart, lungs, and kidney. After cutting the pig open and inspecting its internal organs, the practitioners of adat remove what they interpret as parasites or cancerous parts that they believe caused the sickness. Cleaning the pig's flesh by washing it with water would also "cure" the person's illness. Performing the adat ritual is expensive since a pig can cost hundreds of dollars. The treatment does not work despite the strong cultural belief behind it. In the end, after killing numerous pigs and spending a fortune, many people give up hope. By the time they finally decide to go to the hospital, their condition is too critical with little chance for survival.
Due to a lack of HIV/AIDS education, limited access to health services, and strong pre-existing cultural beliefs about illness, many Papuans who are desperate for a cure turn to alternative medicines and traditional methods of healing. Sometimes it involves cutting different parts of the body to drain "dirty" blood believed to cause the sickness. Fruit potions such as the renowned red fruit potion (buah merah) are also extremely popular for its perceived healing capability. In some cases, those who are already taking ARV medication abandon it to take expensive alternative medications such as Herbal Life vitamin supplements because they are promised an immediate cure.