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About Half of People in Remote Region of Indonesia Unaware of HIV/AIDS
Various Reports
June 22, 2007

About half of the residents in the remote Papua region in eastern Indonesia have never heard of HIV/AIDS, according to a study funded by the World Bank, the U.S. government and Family Health International, Reuters reports. According to the study, 48% of Papuans are unaware of HIV/AIDS, and the number of AIDS cases per 100,000 people in Papua is almost 20 times the national average (Arga, Reuters, 6/19). In addition, the percentage of people who reported being unaware of HIV/AIDS increased to 74% among uneducated populations in the region, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports.

The study -- titled "Risk Behavior and HIV Prevalence in Papua 2006" and scheduled to be released on Wednesday -- was based on interviews and blood samples taken in September 2006 and October 2006 from 6,300 participants ages 15 to 49. The study found that 2.4% of Papuans are HIV-positive. In addition, the study found that HIV prevalence increased to 3.2% of the population in mountainous areas of Papua, compared with 1.8% in low-lying areas (AP/International Herald Tribune, 6/19). The study also found that 5.1% of people living in mountainous regions knew where to obtain condoms, compared with 34.8% of people living in cities.

The study attributed the HIV prevalence in Papua to a lack of knowledge about the disease and reduced access to condoms. "Education on HIV needs to be extended," the study said, adding that education efforts should target at-risk populations, such as people who have multiple sex partners and commercial sex workers and their clients (Reuters, 6/19). The study also called for increased funding for sex education and condom-distribution programs. Health authorities have said that if steps are not taken to reduce the spread of the virus in Papua and other high-prevalence regions, Indonesia could have one million HIV-positive people by 2010 (AP/International Herald Tribune, 6/19). Indonesia has between 169,000 and 216,000 HIV cases, according to estimates from November 2006. About 7,000 AIDS cases have been reported in the country, Reuters reports.

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