Living and Dying in HIV-land: Political violence, health care, and experiences of HIV-positive Papuan women

Since 2001, once-remote communities in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua have been drawn into aggressive development. Decentralization at the national level has allowed local leaders to put in motion new networks and linkages aimed at affirming the place of Papuan communities within the economic and political projects of the nation-state. At the same time, a sustained military presence continues to police Papuans in an effort to curtail an indigenous resistance movement. Within these conditions, HIV infection rates have skyrocketed and for indigenous Papuans, HIV is a generalized epidemic.

As part of the DAHSM Culpeper Seminar Series next week, Leslie Butt, Professor of Medical Anthropology at the Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Victoria, will give a paper next week (Wednesday, April 18) focused on the experiences of HIV-positive women as they mediate local conditions and new HIV treatment initiatives. Results of participant observation research and in-depth interviews conducted in 2009 and 2010 with indigenous women show how acute stigma that is rooted in cultural values, along with fear of gossip, make women afraid to disclose their status and seek support. Their stories also show how discriminatory practices within the Indonesian-run health care system further entrench barriers to care. The talk by Leslie Butt will describe an international HIV/AIDS language of “rational sex” and assesses its intersection with local conditions of political violence, together with describing women’s strategies in these conditions, and commenting on the impact of political conditions on women’s empowerment.

Leslie Butt has been researching issues surrounding gender, reproduction and sexuality in eastern Indonesia since 1994, and has published widely on reproduction, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and cultural and local responses to health care systems.

Notice the seminar change of place and time: it will take place in the beautiful, mural-decorated, Toland Hall at Parnassus campus, at 4 pm instead than at 330 pm. All are welcome to attend!

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Last modified: April 12, 2012