By Patrick Nicholson
Epeanda means ‘return to life’ in the local language of this part of Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. It seemed a good word to the staff, volunteers and patients of the Mendi Diocesan HIV and AIDS programme to describe their activities.They liked it so much, they ended up using it as a title for a new centre that opened there in 2005.
The Catholic Church’s work on HIV and AIDS in Mendi stretches back to 1995. Then the work revolved around explaining the virus, how it is transmitted and challenging the stigma attached to those people living with HIV.
Sr Gaudentia Meier, a Sister of Divine Providence from Switzerland who works at the centre, said better testing and treatment has changed everything. “Before treatment became available and testing more widespread, we were only able to help people who were infected become accepted within their community,” she said. “All we […]
“I hope I die before these islands are covered by the sea.” Eighty-year-old John Sailik was born on the Carteret Islands, a ring of six atolls 50 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
Life there as a young boy was like a paradise he says, fishing and swimming all day. But those days are finished. The islands will soon be underwater as rising sea levels will leave them submerged within five years. He and the other 3000 inhabitants must leave if they wish to live.
The low lying islands surrounded by white sand and crystal blue sea could be out of a travel brochure for a luxury break. There are no shops, cars or phones. There are a couple of houses with generators, but most people have no electricity.
Seline Netoi lives on one of the smaller atolls, called Huene. She says their island paradise is disappearing under the sea. […]
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the highest HIV infection rate in the Pacific region. The true figure of people living with the disease in 2008 was estimated by the United Nations organisation UNAIDS at around 54,000 (out of a population of six million) although only half that figure was officially reported.
Caritas supports an extensive network of centres in PNG providing quick, economical testing, as well as follow-up counselling, under the sponsorship of the Catholic bishops of the country.
The regular supply and distribution of HIV rapid test kits ensures centres are well stocked. The demand for test kits has risen significantly as increased awareness of the facilities encourages more people to be tested.
The care centres also provide counselling for couples and promote prevention of mother-to-child transmission. They offer treatment and support to orphans and vulnerable children.
Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, travelled to PNG in […]