In recent years, amid profound shortages of medicine coupled with widespread ignorance, H.I.V. has spread rapidly throughout Venezuela’s Orinoco Delta and is believed to have killed hundreds of the Warao indigenous people.
Even under the best of circumstances, it might be difficult to control the disease’s spread in such an isolated area. But the government has ignored the issue, medical specialists and Warao community leaders say, leaving the population to face a profound existential threat alone.
The epidemic plaguing the Warao is a crisis within a crisis, a dramatic example of how Venezuela is failing to grapple with a resurgent AIDS emergency even as the annual number of new H.I.V. infections and AIDS-related deaths around the world continues to decline.
A study published in 2013 warned of a burgeoning epidemic. It found that nearly 10 percent of Warao adults living in eight villages in the lower delta region tested positive for H.I.V. — “a dramatic high prevalence,” the researchers wrote. In one community, about 35 percent of those tested were H.I.V. positive.