Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 179–194

Local Biologies and HIV/AIDS in Highlands Papua, Indonesia

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11013-012-9299-2

Cite this article as:
Butt, L. Cult Med Psychiatry (2013) 37: 179. doi:10.1007/s11013-012-9299-2


The province of Papua, Indonesia has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infection in Asia. Within volatile political conditions, HIV has reached generalized epidemic status for indigenous Papuans. This article explores the merits of using the concept of local biologies as an analytic tool to assess the range of factors which affect a local pattern of untreated HIV and rapid onset of AIDS. A research team conducted 32 in-depth interviews with HIV-positive indigenous persons and 15 interviews with health care workers in urban and peri-urban sites in the central highlands region. The results show fear of gossip and stigmatization, regional political conditions and gaps in care interweave to create local biological conditions of evasion of care and rapid onset of AIDS. The normative emphasis in contemporary scholarship on stigma as shaping subjective responses to HIV needs to be complemented by a full assessment of the physiological impact of health services, and the ways political conditions trickle down and mediate local biological patterns. The concept of local biologies is highly effective for explaining the full scope of possible factors affecting the intersection of social and physical realms for HIV-positive persons.


Local biologiesHIV/AIDSHealth careDiscriminationSubjectivities

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pacific and Asian StudiesUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada