According to estimations by the anthropologist Malva Marina Pedrero, the Aymara community in Chile, in the years 2010 and 2011, presented an HIV mortality rate of 9.1 per 100 thousand inhabitants. To better understand this figure, we may compare it to the HIV mortality rate of the non-indigenous population, which is 2.9 per 100 thousand inhabitants. This shows that the Aymaras have up to 3 times more risk of dying from HIV-related causes.
In a seminar organized by the Ministry of health, the anthropologist presented background information on the epidemic, in order to generate an intercultural strategy to address the problems of HIV and tuberculosis in the indigenous peoples of Chile.
This first seminar raises many questions to explain the causes of the epidemic and raises the need to organize a health response with cultural relevance. Also, an ethnographic study will allow to demonstrate how the Aymara culture perceives this epidemic and how their system health and traditional doctors have assimilated this infection of the “modern times”.
“Several of our relatives are directly affected and they hide their situation. They don’t say a thing. They don’t talk about it at all because they think that they have failed their roots. They think that’s not the way how our parents brought them up”, said a member of the Aymara community.
Paula Sívori, responsible for the SEREMI intercultural health program, was of the view that indigenous participation in the construction of sanitary strategies with cultural relevance is essential. Not only in the field of intercultural dialogue on the underlying meanings to this disease, its prevention and treatment, but, for example, on the need to transfer resources to indigenous organizations working within their communities in this area.
The situation of HIV in indigenous communities is alarming. It is the Chilean region with the highest HIV rate in the country. To combat this figure is therefore necessary governmental participation; however, for years, indigenous people have been left apart. The Government needs to open spaces for participation and joint decision-making processes with the Aymara people.