Waropen residents are still afraid of conducting HIV test – West Papua No.1 News Portal
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Waropen residents are still afraid of conducting HIV test

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Campaign poster to encourage people having VCT test – IST

Jayapura, Jubi – Waren Puskesmas Manager, Waropen district, Papua province, stated that people in the area are still afraid to check HIV at VCT clinics in puskesmas (neighborhood health centre), although socialization on HIV transmission and prevention is routinely carried out. They worry about being ostracized by families and communities if the results test turn out positive.

“Actually there is awareness of Waropen residents to come to the VCT clinic, but when they want to check of their HIV status they become reluctant,” said Tiasito Windagdu, VCT Clinical Laboratory Coordinator of Waren Health Center, when confirmed from Jayapura on Monday (October 30).

He said the reluctance of HIV-related self-examination was motivated by the assumption of getting negative stigma from the family.

“Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Waropen is still high, they are afraid not to have HIV and then be alienated by their families,” he said.

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In fact, even if they are HIV positive, still many people would think that the disease suffered due to ‘spirits disturbance’ or Waropen residents call it Suanggi.

“If the result of the examination at the clinic is HIV shows positive, some would hesitate to seek treatment because of the ‘suanggi’ belief” said Tiasito.

He also added that VCT clinic at Puskesmas Waren actively socialize the ways of prevention of HIV transmission despite the limited funds. (tabloidjubi.com/Zely)

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NGOs questions KPA on billions of funds channelling for people living with HIV

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HIV/AIDS Care volunteers who were recruited by KPA Papua province a few months ago to help KPA in counselling. – Jubi / Agus Pabika

Jayapura, Jubi – Some NGOs and communities working with people living with HIV in Jayapura asked the Provincial Aids Commission (KPA) of Papua to transparently report the distribution of funds amounted Rp 1.5 billion allocated to increase nutritional intake among people living with HIV in Papua Province.

The chairperson of the Papua Community Health Development Foundation (YPKM) Joice Erlerly said so far these institutions are not aware of the funds distributed by the KPA Papua.

“We knew about this information after reading an article published in a printed newspaper in Jayapura City. However, the article did not state who had received the funds? Where did it distribute? Regional or provincial level?” said Joice on Tuesday (08/13/2019).

Moreover, she added her institution have never had the coordination or communicated with KPA about any distribution of funds for people living with HIV/AIDS. “YPKM along with those who care about this issue still provide nutritional intake for people living with HIV,” she said.

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Concerning the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Papua, she clarifies there are 48 thousand in which 6,000 alone are living in Jayapura City.

Meanwhile, Roberth Sihombing, an HIV activist in Papua, said that the five thousand people living in HIV/AIDS mentioned by the KPA Papua must be held accountable. “It would be nice if the KPA Papua works together with health services such as hospitals, community health centres and NGOs that assist people living with HIV/AIDS to get a valid data,” he said.

As clearly stated by him, people living with HIV/AIDS, in particular, those who registered in the community health centres need nutritional intake, especially pregnant women.

“A good program will only be more effective if it’s been well because the program of HIV/AIDS prevention and elimination requires the involvement of all parties. If the KPA Papua already had a study on nutritional intake needs among people living in HIV/AIDS, they can go ahead. Unfortunately, I think they don’t,” he said. (*)

Reporter: Agus Pabika
Editor: Maizier Pipit

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Children in Nduga threated not have access to the Polio vaccine

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Illustration of vaccination held in the central highlands of Papua. – Jubi/Islami

Nduga, Jubi – The proportion of the implementation of PIN (National Immunisation Program) for Polio in Nduga Regency is the lowest in the entire of Papua Province. The recent conflict in Nduga might worriedly cause many children to obtain the polio vaccine. Until 13 June 2019, the Provincial Health Office recorded that the proportion of polio vaccination in this regency is still 0,18 per cent.

Togu Sihombing from the Provincial Health Office of Papua said the absence of health workers following the conflict occurred in recent months in Nduga Regency has become the main problem of this issue. “Immunisation and health office staffs in Nduga Regency are not there. So, the vaccination program did not work,” he said in Jayapura on Thursday, 13 June 2019.

To address this issue, he said the Health Office of Papua Province has communicated with the Head of Nduga Health Office to conduct the immunisation program and ask the Regent to guarantee the safety of health workers in the field during the implementation of the program.

Moreover, Sihombing explains that children under 0-15 years old from Nduga Regency who fled to Wamena and Lanny Jaya have obtained Polio vaccine. They represent 0.18 % of program achievement, whereas those who live in Nduga Regency have not yet got the Polio Vaccine.

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“Health workers from the Provincial Health Office want to come to Nduga, but it is not possible now because of the security reason,” he said.

Concerning the current situation in Nduga, TPKP Rimba Papua sent an open letter to UNICEF, Health Office and other relevant stakeholders to concern about it. In its letter, TKP Rimba Papua said that women and children in the military conflict area of Nduga Regency experience a crisis of health. “The most critical case occurred in some districts of Drakma, Dal, Mobil Yalma, Gigi, Inigyal and surrounding areas,” wrote this organisation on 14 June 2019.

Moreover, the organisation asked the Health Office to take action and urged the UNICEF to not being fearful of the security and safety to work on the ground because it has a safety guard guarantee from the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Head of Nduga Health Office, Ina Gwijangge, explains that they have not implemented the immunisation program because of the bad weather and flight schedule. “We have contacted a provider to rent a chopper for conducting the health services, but we cannot execute it due to the bad weather. It has been raining for weeks recently, so we cannot do the service,” she told Jubi via short message service on Tuesday, 18 June 2019.

Also, she admitted that the health officials face difficulty to reach many residents who fled in the forest and other neighbouring regencies. Related to the lowest proportion of polio vaccination in this regency, she said she has communicated with the Provincial Health Office of Papua and asked PT Freeport Indonesia to provide helicopter.

“However, the company sent a letter refusing our request. They said it relates to the weather in the rainy season. Air mobilisation is not possible to conduct,” she said. (*)

Reporter: David Sobolim & Islami Adi Subrata
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Treatment Reactions hampering the Eradication of Leprosy in Papua

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Illustrated – Supplied

Jayapura, Jubi — Leprosy was mostly wiped out in Indonesia two decades ago, but because it remains prevalent in some far-flung regions, the archipelago nation ranks third in cases of the disease after India and Brazil.

In remote villages in Papua and West Papua provinces, the Indonesian government’s efforts to combat the disease have been hampered by life-threatening adverse reactions to a World Health Organization-recommended anti-leprosy medication called Dapsone. The reactions pose such a risk that some doctors have stopped administering the drug altogether.

Enter genetic testing startup Nalagenetics, which was founded in 2016 by a team of scientists from Indonesia and Singapore.

The company sees a crucial role for itself in addressing such public health problems. The startup collaborates with the Genome Institute of Singapore to develop pharmacogenomic testing — finding out how a person’s genes affect their bodies’ response to medicines —  with the aim of reducing adverse drug reactions and increasing prescription efficacy. This is carried out through the use of reagents and analytical software that the team develops under the intellectual property collaboration.

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Last year, Nalagenetics won its first major contract from the Indonesian health ministry to distribute 1,000 genetic test kits in five villages in Papua and West Papua. It found that 20% of leprosy patients there carry the gene responsible for potentially fatal reactions to Dapsone. This discovery has helped doctors decide which patients can be safely treated with the antibiotic.

“What we told doctors is, ‘If you test these patients first, and you know which drugs work for whom, you can actually give the right drug to the right people,'” Nalagenetics chief exeuctive co-founder Levana Sani told the Nikkei Asian Review in her co-working space in Jakarta. The Singapore-based startup sees Indonesia as its main target market.

“I think that idea resonated a lot with the [Indonesian] government because the government cares about leprosy patients. They want to solve this problem,” she added.

Nalagenetics received $1 million in a pre-seed funding round last November from Southeast Asia- and Japan-focused fund East Ventures, Indonesia-focused Intudo Ventures and some angel investors.

Levi, as Sani preferred to be called, said Nalagenetics had not immediately thought of accessing venture capital funding as it had been receiving science grants, including one from Singapore’s science and research agency, A*STAR, dedicated to scientists turning their research work into business ventures. The startup has received 500,000 Singapore dollars ($366,000) in total grants.

Indeed, Nalagenetics was born out of a science lab: the Genome Institute of Singapore, where Levi met three senior colleagues who later became her co-founders. This happened during her internship at the institute, after the Indonesian native earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Southern California and before her two-year study at the Harvard Business School.

“[My co-founders] were like, OK, we really want to create a company because we think we can do more than just publishing papers,” Levi said.

She started taking care of Nalagenetics full time upon her return from the U.S. in September, with a second co-founder set to join her soon. The other two co-founders hold senior positions at the genome institute, and will continue to act as advisers to Nalagenetics. The startup currently has 10 employees, but it is recruiting amid expansion plans.

Genetic testing is not new in the startup scene. The U.S. has led the market for consumer-oriented gene analysis services, thanks to the presence of many promising startups such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA.

In Asia, Hong Kong-based Prenetics had earlier entered Southeast Asia, and began operations in mainland China in April. It has raised a total of $52.7 million, according to Crunchbase, which keeps track of startups. Meanwhile, China-focused 23Mofang raised a total of 200 million yuan ($29 million) last year.

Apart from pharmacogenomic services, Prenetics, which could be considered Nalagenetics’ closest rival, offers general genetic profiling that allows subjects to understand their alcohol tolerance, what diets work best for them and risks of cancer and other diseases, for example.

But while Prenetics partners with insurance companies to offer testing kits to policyholders, Nalagenetics opts to collaborate directly with doctors and hospitals. The goal is to develop genetic tests suitable to their specific prescription needs — with a focus on cancer, cardiovascular and psychiatry treatments, as well as those for infectious diseases like leprosy.

Nalagenetics is currently partnering with research hospitals in Jakarta and Singapore, and is planning to enter Thailand next year. Citing ongoing legal negotiations, however, it declined to name its hospital partners.

“What we really want to do is to make this [genetic testing] part of a national guideline of a country,” Levi said, adding that Nalagenetics is well on its way in that direction with the Dapsone leprosy treatment in Indonesia. “Because that means … the whole nation is a captive market.”

Eddy Chan, founding partner at Intudo Ventures, sees business opportunities in Nalagenetics’ “razor focus” on seemingly niche markets, which he said is simply a starting point.

“Once such a company delivers massive value and delightful experiences to its customers, it can greatly expand the market itself and their product offering to customers,” Chan said.

This seems to ring true. Levi said following the leprosy project in Indonesia, Nalagenetics has received similar requests — albeit of smaller scale — from Nepal and India. There have also been other orders from Australia and Dubai.

“With these things, because the market is still quite new, we don’t need massive [promotions],” Levi said. “We only need one distributor or one partner who have full trust on our product, and then it will become a lab reference in the country.”

Galen Growth Asia, a health tech research firm, said 2018 was a record-breaking year, with $6.3 billion invested in health tech companies in the Asia-Pacific region. And in the January-March period, total investment in digital health in the region exceeded the $1 billion mark, edging ahead of the U.S. for the first time. With China stagnating and India plummeting, Southeast Asia drove the growth, accounting for 22% of all deals in the first quarter, up 11% year on year.

Chan said Intudo is bullish on the prospects of the health tech industry in Southeast Asian countries, citing their health care spending as a percentage of gross domestic product that remains below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s average.

Initiatives taken by regional governments, such as Indonesia’s expanding universal coverage scheme BPJS, are another driving factor. Levi said Nalagenetics won the leprosy contract through a BPJS tender, and that it is preparing to take part in other tenders under the same program. (*)

This article appeared first time on asia.nikei.com

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