Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Hospital staffs and family members carry Eddy's body to be transported back to his village.
Eddie (30) was a schoolteacher in Jayapura. Despite his education and access to health facilities in the city, Eddie did not seek medical treatment when he was diagnosed with HIV because he was afraid that his friends and family members would find out. Instead, Eddie returned to his village when his health declined. He stayed in his parents' honai but kept his illness a secret and did not seek clinical treatment. The virus progressed into the later stages of AIDS. When Eddie's condition became life threatening, his family finally brought him to the hospital and he arrived in critical condition. His CD4 or white blood cell count was 1, when a typical count is 700. Family members gathered everyday at his bedside, waiting and praying. Despite doctors' attempt to stabilize his condition Eddie passed away in less than a week. Eddie's body was brought back to his village. Family members, friends, and neighbors mourned his death. The following day, Eddie was buried and hundreds of people, including colleagues and students, attended his funeral.
Stigma significantly reduces the quality of life and increases the likelihood of suffering and mortality for indigenous Papuans living with HIV/AIDS. ODHA (Orang Dengan HIV/AIDS) is the term often used to label a person living with HIV/AIDS. This label has a negative connotation since HIV/AIDS is frequently associated with dishonor and death and it is often viewed as a curse or retribution for sins or deviant behaviors such as alcoholism, promiscuity, and extra marital sex. Thus, shame, guilt and death go hand in hand with how Papuans see HIV/AIDS. Consequently, fear of abuse, persecution, and ostracism from family members and the wider community has made secrecy the primary concern for ODHA rather than seeking treatment.