According to an article published in El País, Lima, on 27 November 2015, the Awajún of the Province of Condorcanqui are struggling with an incidence of HIV-AIDS that exceeds that of Peru’s general population. “The percentage of infected individuals as percentage of the total population has fluctuated over the past four years between 1.32% and 2.1%, well above the 0.23% incidence for Peru as a whole . . . .”
Among the factors contributing to this high incidence, according to the article, are increased contact with outsiders, frequent travel to urban areas by Awajún youth, a tolerant attitude toward male homosexual behavior, and the early onset of sexual intercourse among young men and women.
In some cases AIDS fatalities have been attributed to sorcery. “Saúl Sejekan, vice-apu of Huampami, the capital of the Cenepa valley, tells of a recent case of the death of a young man. Extra-officially he was known to have had AIDS, but his relatives assured him that he had been killed by sorcery. As is common in these cases, the community gathered and decided to expel the person who had supposedly caused the harm . . . Sejekan considered the accused to be innocent in this case, but he couldn’t oppose the community’s decision.”
Advocates for the Awajún are arguing for implementation of a policy of intercultural medicine that would integrate local communities with treatment strategies and campaigns of prevention. So far, the government’s response has been slow. “This policy has already gone through all channels of consultation and approval, but it’s not known why the president has the Supreme Degree in his hands and still doesn’t sign it.”
Other stories on the Awajún and HIV-AIDS:
Thanks to my friend Manuel Cornejo of the Centro Amazónico de Antropologîa y Aplicación Práctica for bringing this story to my attention.