Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Crowd gathers at a night market in Sorong, West Papua. Non-Papuans now outnumber ethnic Papuans.
Papua is a vast province and has abundant natural resources such as copper, gold, and timber. However, most indigenous Papuans live on less than $1 a day. The incidence of poverty in Papua is the highest in the country; double that of the national average. Papua was acquired by Indonesia in 1969 in a disputed vote rejected by most Papuans. For the past four decades Papuans have sought independence. A transmigration policy implemented by the federal government relocated almost a million non-Papuan migrants from surrounding provinces as part of the "Indonesianization" process. These migrants, along with another million voluntary migrants, dominate most of the region's trade and business, thereby controlling authority and dictating commerce in Papua. Imported goods such as rice, medication, and gas are brought into Papua and sold at exorbitant prices, making the cost of living the highest in Indonesia. Coupled with unequal access to education and training, opportunities for indigenous Papuans to advance economically are limited. The consequence is economic inequality¬--wealthy migrants and poor Papuans--and a marginalized indigenous population where poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, illness, illiteracy, and discrimination are the norm.