IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST HIV/AIDS
Zelia Cordeiro, SSpS
HIV/AIDS pandemic began in the early 1980s, it has been spreading
rapidly in many developing countries. Today, its impact on
health and socio-economic development is highly visible in these
countries, and their attempts to prevent and control the spread of
HIV/AIDS have so far met with little success. In fact, the
prevalence of HIV infection among young adults in developing
countries has increased at an alarming rate.
Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,
in a statement for World Aids Day 2003 said that this year five
million people were infected with HIV 14.000 every day; 95 per
cent of them live in low and middle-income countries, 60 per cent
in sub- Saharan Africa. Half of them are between ages 15 and 24.
Forty million people are living with HIV/AIDS; 3 million died this
context, the myths, stereotypes and judgments surrounding HIV/AIDS
and its transmission are as deadly as the virus itself.
In Papua New Guinea, the first case
was diagnosed in 1987. Since then the number of HIV/AIDS cases has
been increasing dramatically. In order to answer the increasing
demand in this country, Sharon Walker the adviser for counseling and
care in the National HIV/AIDS support project in conjunction with
the National AIDS Council of PNG, organized an exposure trip to some
African countries. The aim of the project, supported by the
Australian Government, was to visit HIV/AIDS programs in Africa and
learn from them how to improve the national HIV/AIDS program in
Papua New Guinea. For this task nine people from different provinces
and different professional and religious backgrounds were selected
to go to Africa for a study trip. During the four week - program the
group visited South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda. We, Holy
Spirit Sisters were fortunate to be chosen to be with the group. Sr.
Tarcisia, SSpS the National Catholic AIDS Coordinator for PNG and I
as a media person for the group.
HIV/AIDS in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of
the world that is most affected by HIV/AIDS. An estimated 29.4
million people are living with HIV/AIDS and approximately 3.5
million new infections occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2003.
According to the coordinator of community project of South Africa,
Joyce Mnisi only last year the epidemic has claimed the lives of an
estimated 2.4 million Africans. Moreover a million young people (age
15-24) and almost 3 million children under 15 are living with HIV.
In Soweto, the project visited by
the Papua New Guinean group was a childrens care program. The
Childrens care program, led by the Salvation Army, is currently
helping 31 children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. Visiting
villages and offering counseling, support and awareness is also part
of the Salvation Army program.
During our visit to the village we
heard sad stories, like that of a 19 year old young woman taking
care of her two young brothers and sister, because her parents have
died of AIDS, and how grandmothers looking after grandchildren is
quite common around Soweto, a town of over 5 million people.
While in South Africa there are many
Childrens Care centers designed to attend the need of metropolis
like Johannesburg and Soweto, in Zambia, the orphans are looked
after by the community. They believe that there is no other place
better than a family environment for the children to be brought up.
In Ckikankata, a village located four hours
drive from Lusaka, capital city of Zambia, the group visited the
Children in Need Program. The project, started by a group of
women, was a community response to HIV/AIDS in that community. With
the technical support of the manager - AIDS management and training
services, Benny Njobvu, the group formed a committee to discuss
problems affecting orphans and vulnerable children. At the moment
they are taking care of 54 children. In 2003 they planted maize and
harvested a good number of bags of maize, which they were able to
sell so as to buy second hand clothes to distribute among the
Apart from that they also went to a
goat bank, where they bought some goats and gave them to some of the
guardians keeping the orphans. The offspring of these goats will be
given to other guardians. According to Benny, it will empower
economically those taking care of orphans as well as motivating
them. The womens committee, also advocates on behalf of the
children with regard to property and school related issues.
In Uganda, in the year 2002 alone,
70,000 Ugandans died of HIV/AIDS and another 70,000 got infected,
said Kinaalwa Geoffre Semailula, Chairman AIDS Challenge Youth Club
TASO (The AIDS Support Program) Mulago. Yet, Uganda is recognized
worldwide for its efforts in reducing the prevalence of HIV.
Prevention strategies that focus on abstinence and being faithful
have been dramatically effective in reducing HIV rates in Uganda.
Mulago National referral hospital
founded way back in 1993 as a venereal disease treatment centre, is
today in the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS through its
pioneering prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS
using the Niverapine drug as well as the treatment and care for
mothers and children.
All over the world, the HIV/AIDS
epidemic is having a profound impact. It also tends to bring out the
best and worst in people. It triggers the best when individuals
group together in solidarity to combat government, community and
individual denial and to offer support and care to people living
with HIV/AIDS. A good example of this is the TASO drama group with
its program that brings people who are HIV positive to share their
lifes story through media of music, dance and drama. The drama
group is a practical and creative way of promoting awareness
throughout the country says Charles Makanga, TASO drama group
chairman. Initiatives like the TASO drama group could serve as a
model for further awareness programs here in Papua New Guinea.
June 05, 2004