Thursday, January 5, 2012


W.H. (47) originally from Wamena, a mountainous region in Papua has been HIV positive since 2001.  However, has never been on Anti-Retroviral Treatment.  "I don't want to take medicines because I am afraid that if I forget to take it even one day, my condition would get worst."

W.H. in his small garden.
 When W.H. feels sick, he would take a sharpened bamboo, razor, or glass and cut parts of his body (arm, leg, back, head, etc.) to let "dirty" blood (1-2 liters) out his body that he believes to cause his sickness.  Afterward, he told me that he would feel healthier and have the energy to return to work in his small garden.  As a small child in Wamena W.H. parents would cut his body when he got sick.  However, this traditional practice is still common even today in cities like Jayapura among indigenous Papuans. 

ARV medication must be taken 2x per day at the same time everyday forever.  Another reason that W.H. is currently not on ARV treatment is because he needs to eat before he take the medication. A consistent intake of medication is a great challenge to many indigenous Papuans such as W.H. who earns less than $1/day.  They only eat if they have made enough money from selling their fruits and vegetables from their garden.  W.H. daily diet is consisted of rice and vegetable.  He told me he only eats meat when he has enough money to buy fish, chicken, or pork if there is a special event with food for guests. 

Less than 10% of Indigenous Papuans who are HIV positive are on ARV treatment due to lack of education and insufficient support and assistance.  Moreover, the percentage of health facilities that offer ARV is 23% according to National AIDS Commission (NAC). Thus, it's not available everywhere, mostly in cities and urban areas.  
Fortunately, it has been many months since W.H. cut his body because he has been healthy.  YHI or Yayasan Harapan Ibu (Mother's Hope Foundation) assists W.H. with providing him with food, transportation, and counseling. 

*W.H. real name is kept to protect his identity.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, how sad. It is really sad how many people don't even know basic information about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. And it's also scary how he cuts himself to bleed (which can also spread the virus). Good photos Andri! Thanks.