Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans.
A fresh-killed pig is washed with water and placed on top of a fire pit to burn off its hair. After 3 days in the hospital, David who is in the late stages of AIDS insisted on checking himself out to perform "adat," one of the common traditional methods of healing to cure HIV/AIDS.
Due to a lack of education about HIV, limited access to health services, and strong preexisting cultural beliefs about illness, many people who are desperate for a cure turn to traditional methods of healing. This involves cutting different parts of the body to drain "dirty" blood believed to cause sickness. Fruit potions such as the renowned red fruit potion (buah merah) are extremely popular. Holy water and prayers, and expensive Herbal Life vitamin supplements can also replace clinical treatments and ARV. Sometimes people who are already taking ARV abandon it to take expensive alternative medications because they are promised an immediate cure.
One of the common practices in the highlands to try to diagnose and cure HIV is by conducting a traditional diagnostic ritual termed adat. This involves killing a pig and examining its blood, heart, lungs, and kidney. The intention of this practice is to discover the causes of the disease. After cutting the pig open and inspecting the pig's internal organs, the practitioners of adat remove what they interpret as parasites or cancerous parts that they believe caused the sickness. Cleaning the pig flesh by washing it with water would also "cure" the person's illness. Making adat diagnoses and cures are expensive since a pig can cost hundreds of dollars. The treatment does not work despite the strong cultural belief system that is behind it. In the end, after killing numerous pigs and spending a fortune, many people give up hope, and when they finally decide to take the sick person to a hospital, the patient's condition is critical and they soon die.