Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Public Health Development Foundation (YPKM), a local NGO in Wamena, helps bring David who is in the late stages of AIDS to the Emergency Room for immediate medical assistance. Along the way, he walked past a grave of a baby who died a month earlier from a sudden illness after contracting the HIV virus from the mother.
David has been HIV-positive for almost 4 years. His wife is also HIV-positive and they are both taking ARV medication. However, David did not take his medication properly and his health has declined significantly. Living in a rural area of Lani Jaya, David's village lacks an adequate health facility, and he must travel hundreds of miles to Wamena to receive care. Staying in a relative's honai or traditional hut, David's condition deteriorated. YPKM or the Foundation for the Development of Public Health in Wamena chartered a vehicle to take David to the emergency room. Frail and in poor health, David barely made it to the hospital. His white blood cell count was dismal at 24, instead of the typical 700. At the hospital, David received saline solution and medicines that significantly improved his condition. YPKM also gave David rice and milk to help him with his recovery. Nevertheless, after three days in the hospital, David forcefully checked himself out because he wanted to conduct the adat ritual, and the health staff could not prevent him from leaving. David spent several hundred dollars to purchase two pigs for the ritual. However, his health deteriorated to the point where he was unable to stand up on his own. A week after checking himself out from the hospital, David chartered a vehicle to go back to his village to die.