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Doctors fear that the number of Papuans living with HIV/AIDS far exceeds the government’s figures. These figures already place West Papua as the region with the highest number of cases in Indonesia, with infection rates 15 times the national average.
A recent survey has estimated that 4,200 people in the Punkak Jaya region alone live with the disease; doctors expect the number to rise by 200 percent in the next five years.
Sixteen people have died from AIDS at Mulia hospital in Puncak Jaya regency, including a number of teenagers and a child of three. Information about the disease is desperately lacking in the remote areas, and none of those admitted to the hospital were aware that they were infected when they arrived.
Papua has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963, and the Indonesian army has a long history of human rights violations against the Papuan tribal peoples. The Indonesian government is exploiting Papua’s natural resources at great profit, without regard for the lives of the Papuan people.
Logging and other businesses, often supported by the military, have brought prostitutes into West Papua, fuelling the spread of the disease. Such is the mistrust felt by the Papuans, that many believe that the Indonesian army is deliberately introducing HIV as a tool of genocide.
Read Survival's report on tribal people's health, 'Progress can kill'