HIV/AIDS spreading among tribal peoples

HIV/AIDS is spreading among tribal peoples due to increased contact with outsiders and dramatic social change, says Survival International in its new report, ‘Progress can kill’.

West Papua has a rate of HIV/AIDS at least 15 times the rate in Indonesia as a whole. The province is home to 312 tribes who have suffered extreme oppression and violence since the Indonesian occupation in the 1960s. Many tribespeople even believe that the Indonesian military is introducing HIV/AIDS deliberately in order to wipe them out.

HIV/AIDS was virtually unknown among the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari in Botswana before the government evicted them from their land. But in New Xade resettlement camp in 2002, at least 40% of Bushman deaths were due to AIDS.

Yanomami Indians in Brazil report that soldiers stationed on their land have brought gonorrhoea and syphilis to their communities through sexual exploitation of tribal women. They fear that the soldiers will also transmit HIV/AIDS.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Tribal people die because their land is invaded and taken and because they succumb to outside diseases they never knew before. Increasingly now we can add HIV/AIDS to the list of killers. It is striking the most vulnerable peoples of all: those who have no grasp of the risks of unprotected sex; no access to condoms; no appropriate treatment; and whose numbers are already small. The first solution is the simplest – governments must ensure tribal lands are properly protected.’

Saturday, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Read Survival's report, 'Progress can kill'

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]