Breaking the Taboo: Health Workers in Papua Explore New Outreach Methods to Promote Youth HIV Testing

Five women discussing around a table while assembling notes on cardboard
© UNAIDS Indonesia/Ari Dewiyanti
Healthcare workers in West Papua participate in sensitization training in HIV Services.

Providing youth-friendly counselling, sharing information via online channels, and expanding digital reach to find new ways to encourage young people to get tested for HIV are some of the topics 50 healthcare workers from across Papua discussed at a training delivered by UNAIDS in March 2022.

“Prior to this training, I didn’t know about the different needs of key populations, which hinders our ability to reach them,” said Kristanti, from the District Health Office of Jayapura. “We learned about important techniques for reaching young people.”

Almost half of all new HIV infections in Indonesia occur among young people, a situation experts attribute to stigma and discrimination, poor educational awareness of HIV, a lack of youth-friendly services, and social taboos.

“Young people here don’t regularly access HIV services. I really want to invite my friends to get tested, but they are all so afraid. They don’t have enough information or support from their families and are scared about finding out their status,” said Marto, an activist from Papua.

“Young people still encounter many challenges that prevent them from accessing the life-saving health care they need,” said Krittayawan Boonto, UNAIDS Country Director for Indonesia.

Through initiatives like the March training in Papua, she adds, UN AIDS supports “networks led by young people to have the capacity and leadership capabilities to take control of the HIV response and to have direct involvement in creating safe spaces where young people can access HIV services free from stigma and discrimination.”