Papua New Guinea: communities at the centre of the AIDS response
The communities most affected by HIV have always been at the forefront of the response to the epidemic, mobilizing and inspiring others to act. In her official visit to Papua New Guinea, taking place during the last week of May, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle witnessed how community leadership is making a difference for people living with HIV in the country.
Community systems in the country are based on the traditional wantok welfare and care system, whch is grounded on the belief that if one of your wantoks (close friends) is sick, you need to care for him or her. This system has allowed communities to be more responsive in delivering HIV services to those most in need in an effective, rights-based and culturally appropriate manner.
During a visit to the Pari community with former Minister for Community Development, and renowned AIDS activist, Dame Carol Kidu, Ms Beagle highlighted the importance of community leadership in demonstrating acceptance of people living with HIV, raising awareness about HIV prevention and tackling stigma and discrimination.
“We need to maximize the participation of people living with HIV; their involvement gives personal power and immediacy to AIDS efforts, improves the technical elements and relevance of programmes, enables buy-in by the broader people living with HIV constituency and the community in general and inspires others into action.”
Dame Carol Kidu
“Zero discrimination is the hardest zero to reach. We need role models, chiefs, councillors, women; we need everyone to have the courage to reject stigma, discrimination and violence, to create a supportive community environment for people living with HIV, and for open discussions at the family and community level on HIV and sexual education issues.”
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director
“Women are caregivers in our communities so they need to understand the needs of people living with HIV. Knowledge about HIV needs to go to every household in our villages. We know people are dying from AIDS but we do not talk about it.”
Councillor Mary Kidu, a Women’s Fellowship Member and MKA Women’s Representative