Papua New Guinea AIDS Committee Dismisses Report of HIV-Positive People Being Buried Alive in Southern Highlands Region
The AIDS Committee of Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands province has found no evidence that people living with HIV/AIDS in the area were buried alive, committee Deputy Chair Jeffrey Hurums announced recently, Papua New Guinea's the Nation reports (Miae, Nation, 9/11). The committee launched an investigation after the local media reported last month that HIV/AIDS advocate Margaret Marabe, who works with the group Igat Hope, saw five people buried alive because they were living with HIV/AIDS. Marabe had spent five months carrying out an HIV/AIDS education campaign in the Southern Highlands. "When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," Marabe was quoted as saying (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/28).
The report prompted the National AIDS Council Secretariat to conduct a separate investigation in response to reaction from church officials and nongovernmental organizations, including donors and international agencies, according to the Nation. Hurums said officers were sent into the Tari area of the Southern Highlands, where the alleged incidents were reported, and found no evidence of such crimes. He also said committee members are appealing to their partners, stakeholders, NGOs, district AIDS committees, and voluntary counseling and testing centers to consult them before releasing any information to the media or other organizations. The media report "sent wrong signals to everyone, including the international community here and abroad, who are funding" HIV/AIDS programs in the country, Hurums said (Nation, 9/11).