Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Mary (18) leans on her friend's shoulder as she waits for her HIV test results at a Voluntary Counseling and Testing clinic (VCT).
For many young Papuan women in urban and developing areas, poverty and economic pressures have forced the exchange of sex for goods, cash, or food as an accepted mean for survival. Unlike non-Papuan brothel workers, Papuan sex workers often seek clients in public venues and have sex outside, by the side of the road, or in urban dwellings. Operating outside formal establishments, the exact number of Papuan sex workers are unknown but are estimated to be at least double the number of non-Papuans. Despite their high numbers, intervention programs targeting Papuan sex workers have not been a priority and most of them rarely have access to information, preventive services and support for HIV/AIDS and Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STD). With limited access to information and support, Papuan sex workers are less informed, have lower rates of condom usage (5% compared to non-Papuans with a 70% rate of condom usage), and are more likely to get infected with STDs and HIV than their counterparts in regulated brothels.