Australia is providing A$25 million ($26 million) in assistance to help Indonesia improve access to HIV services in its two Papua provinces, embassy officials said on Monday.
The aid is part of a A$100 million HIV six-year partnership commitment between Australia and Indonesia that started four years ago.
The embassy said that the Australian government, through its aid program AusAID, has been combating HIV with the Indonesian government in Papua and West Papua since 2004.
The new Rapidly Expanding Access to Care for HIV (Reach) program will be building on the success of the existing partnership, an Australian official said.
Mat Kimberley, the acting head of Aus-AID in Indonesia, is traveling to Papua with Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi to see firsthand how the partnership makes a difference in the lives of people with HIV, the embassy said.
“We share the same concern as Indonesia on the HIV epidemic in Papua and West Papua, which have the highest HIV prevalence in Indonesia,” Kimberley said.
“Australia’s assistance will help improve access to HIV services and increase the number of people who are getting the care and treatment they need.”
Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing HIV transmission rates in Asia, and in most instances the actual number of people living with HIV is believed to be far higher than the official data shows.
The World Health Organization estimates there are 300,000 people in Indonesia living with HIV/AIDS, with the worst-affected places being Jakarta and the province of Papua, where 2.3 percent of the population is infected.
The government said that about 50,000 HIV patients require drugs, but only 20,000 are getting them.
There are 796 people with either AIDS or HIV on record in Papua, according to data from the AIDS Handling Commission (KPA) and the Health Department of Papua, including 335 HIV cases and 461 AIDS cases. Of those cases, 59 percent are women or girls.
The local KPA however estimated that there were 2,500 people living with HIV in the province.
KPA data shows that HIV/AIDS affects Papuans of all different backgrounds, from sex workers to housewives to even a handful of religious leaders.