Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Hilda weighs herself inside the office of a local NGO in Wamena. She has gained 3kg (6.5 lbs) and she has started taking ARV only after staying in their temporary shelter for 2 weeks.
Hilda walked five days from her village in Yahukimo to reach the town of Wamena. Hilda said she contracted HIV at the age of 11 after an older man raped her. When she arrived in Wamena, she was already in the second stage of AIDS experiencing symptoms of diarrhea and losing more than 10% of her body weight. Fortunately, an NGO field worker from YPKM discovered her at the local clinic and offered her a room in the back of their office. The small room was initially used for storage but now functions as a temporary shelter for Hilda and another young girl. At the shelter, Hilda receives constant care and nutritious food such as rice, vegetables, and fish.
Adequate long-term support for people living with HIV/AIDS is lacking in both cities and rural regions of Papua. A hospice is essential in HIV/AIDS recovery because it provides a place where patients can receive constant care and support. For patients who have to travel to cities to get treatment, a hospice provides a convenient temporary shelter. At times, a hospice also offers a sanctuary for those with HIV/AIDS who are rejected or face discrimination due to their status.
One of the biggest obstacles to recovery and rehabilitation for indigenous Papuans living with HIV/AIDS is the lack of adequate nutrition. Due to poverty and because many Papuans have moved away from a subsistence garden culture, many cannot afford to purchase or consume wholesome foods. Papuans who are HIV-positive find it extremely difficult to work or tend their crops. Consequently, indigenous Papuans do not receive sufficient vitamins, proteins and nutrients from their diet. When they fall sick Papuans recover at a much slower pace and most find it extremely challenging to stay healthy.