Health care workers are said to possess powers of life or death over people living with HIV because they control access to life-saving treatments. In Tanah Papua, Papuan-led NGOs are increasingly in demand to connect indigenous Papuans to clinics for HIV counseling, testing or treatment via intermediaries who may be also kin, neighbours, or friends. It is hoped that indigeneity and local forms of sociality will bridge gaps in an otherwise Indonesian-dominated field of services. So what might be said about the powers of these community members who interpret HIV for those less knowledgeable, reach out and bring people back for HIV services, or deliver medication and other supports? Drawing on ethnographic research and interviews with NGO workers and HIV positive Papuans, this paper examines some of the moral, cultural, religious and political dynamics of NGO-based HIV responses in Tanah Papua. How do NGO workers understand what they are doing and how do workers and clients negotiate social relations around HIV services? Peer outreach is an example of growing insidious and intimate inequalities amongst Papuans illuminated in differential access to knowledge and services, but Papuan NGO workers are also struggling to define and enact â€˜goodâ€™ care in local terms against technocratic norms and Indonesian political dominance. The political, moral and social life of HIV services may be shifted by peer outreach, but with contradictory results for clients who want to maintain privacy and anonymity, and who prefer discreet forms of social support to political advocacy.
|Place of Publication
|Published - 2015