Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1st Update - Jayapura

Happy New Year 2012.  I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday.

Christmas Eve
I am currently in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.  I took an overnight plane from Jakarta on the December 19th.  Despite the long delay, which is common in Jakarta, I safely arrived without any problem.  Jayapura was the first city I visited when I first started working on this project.  My aim is to meet up with doctors, nurses, social workers, researchers, and government officials to get the latest information and follow up on some of the people that I photographed. 

Papua or formerly known as Irian Jaya is now divided into provinces, Papua and West Papua.  Papua has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the country, 15 times higher than the national average and the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence outside of Africa (estimated 2.4% prevalence among general population). HIV/AIDS does not discriminate along the lines of ethnicity but in Papua, indigenous Papuans are more likely to be infected.  In fact, indigenous Papuans count for almost 75% of all HIV/AIDS cases in Papua.  

My plan is to continue working on this project for almost 6 months and visiting 7 different cities:

  • Jayapura - One of the biggest cities and capital of Papua.
  • Merauke - Port City and the first location HIV case was recorded in 1992
  • Wamena - Mountainous area in the highlands with some urbanization and entry point to original tribes.
  • Timika - The site of the biggest gold mine in the world and highest infection number in the region.
  • Biak - One of the highest death rates with very little support, 135 death out of 588 infected (23%).  
Currently, Papua has 10, 522 people with HIV/AIDS, almost a 50% increase compared to 7089 in 2010, and 4745 in 2009.  However, the current actual number is predicted to be doubled since not everyone has been tested, unaware of their infection, or keep their condition a secret. 
    West Papua
    • Manokwari - Has one of the highest infection rates in this region.
    • Sorong - High number of Transgender who are HIV positive.
    I have not been to West Papua and I am in the process of contacting various NGOs for the latest data and access.  

    Imbi Park, a popular place to buy sex, with a statue of General MacArthur.
    Children swim at ship-port
    Shipping Port in Jayapura.  Passengers arriving and leaving for the holidays.
    My contact, Ibu Veneranda from Mother’s Hope Foundation (Yayasan Harapan Ibu), was kind enough to help find me an affordable room to rent during my month long stay here.  The bare room pink curtain, green walls, one small window and shared bathroom costs around 500.000 IDR, equivalent to $55/month. (9000 IDR = $1).  I had to buy a small mattress and fan ($20) for comfort, the only two pieces of “furniture” that I bought in over 2 years.  Not that I am against furniture but buying them means commitment.
    My modest room in Jayapura
    There are better rooms that I could have found in town but I have a limited budget and numerous expenses.  To make sure that I don’t run out of money, I need to live as cheaply as possible.  My budget for food is around 50.000 IDR or $6 per day, and 1/3 of that goes to coffee, which is essential to get me through the day.  
    I get around town using local transportation.  They call it taxi here, but it’s really a small van crammed with 15 people.  They cost around 2000-3000 IDR or 25 cents per ride.  Internet is around 5000-7000 IDR per hour and it’s super slow.  Renting a car and a driver could costs around 250.000 or $20/day and I will definitely use it to get to remote locations.  Not including cell phone, fixer, flights within the region, etc and these expenses doubles as I get into the highlands.  After almost 6 months these expenses will sure add up. 

    Also I haven’t even included costs of visa extension and production such as multimedia, books, and film processing.  My point is doing long-term documentary work is expensive and requires knowing how to live within a budget.  In life it means choosing what we need over than what we want. 
    After settling in my new home-base, I met up with my friends at Yayasan Harapan Ibu, a local NGO that provides education in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and support to those already infected.  They filled me in with all the latest information.  I learned that two people that I photographed from my last visit unfortunately have died.  A couple of teenage sex workers that I met last time are now in dire health condition and they’ve returned home to their families.  Nevertheless, the average life expectancy for Indigenous Papuans with HIV/AIDS in Papua is 2 years.   
    Yuli Elizabeth Yemo, died last year, she was 37
    Indigenous Papuans are the most vulnerable and face the highest risk of HIV/AIDS transmission, stigma and marginalized well-being, and mortality.  Due to economic disparities, indigenous Papuans are most susceptible to poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, and illiteracy.  Furthermore, discriminatory policies and practices have resulted in the denial of access to information, support, and preventive services necessary for indigenous Papuans to make informed decisions to reduce their vulnerability to infection.
    Awareness of HIV/AIDS is very low among indigenous.  Limited access to basic health services and insufficient support has made it difficult for indigenous Papuans to get tested for HIV or receive adequate assistance and counseling.  For example, only 31 percent of indigenous Papuans know where to get an HIV test.  Condom is essential in preventing infection since almost all cases are spread through sexual relations but less than 30 percent could identify a condom and only 8 percent have used one.  Most clinics that provide support and preventive services are located too far from those living in rural areas.  Also, the majority of staffs in health sector are in-migrants with little knowledge of Papuan culture and value.  This often led to biased or inefficient delivery methods of service.  The availability of Anti-Retroviral drugs is erratic and medicines for opportunistic infection such as Tuberculosis or dietary supplements to help maintain health are also lacking.  Furthermore, fear of abuse, persecution and ostracism from community and family members have made secrecy the primary concern rather than treatment.  Thus, most of those who tested positive for HIV in Papua fled without seeking care.
    To recap, my main objectives are:  
    1. Economic disparity
    2. Lack of HIV/AIDS education and awareness 
    3. Insufficient service and support  
    4. Discrimination in health care
    5. Stigma
    The question is how do I plan to convey these objectives visually?  I will be focusing mainly on Indigenous Papuans facing infection and living with HIV/AIDS illustrating their hardships and obstacles in getting information, receiving preventive care, undergoing treatments, and facing stigma among individuals and topics such as:
    • A pregnant woman with HIV/AIDS.
    • Parents taking care of their children or family members with HIV/AIDS.
    • A husband/wife or boyrfriend/girlfriend living with HIV/AIDS
    • A girl/boy coming of age and dealing with relationships and sex. 
    • Orphans
    • Street sex workers and exploring "opportunistic" sex, cash or good in exchange for sex including transgender
    • Brothels and Bars and its condition in contrast to Indigenous Papuans women working on the street
    • Patients undergoing treatment, counseling, and check-up including first timers.
    • Condition of hospitals, hospices, mobile VCT, and clinics as well as supplies such as condom and ARV availability.
    • Mass Media such as billboards and public events that create any awareness.
    • The role of church and spiritual leaders against stigma
    • Life Skills Education (LSE) taught in schools in raising awareness about condom and HIV/AIDS.
     This is it for now for my long overdue 1st update.  Thanks for reading.


    P.S. Special thanks to POYi Emerging Vision Incentive, Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant, and a handful of generous individuals (despite not reaching my goal on provided me with financial support to continue this project.  

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