IRIN/PlusNews Profiles PNG Commune for People Living With HIV/AIDSIRIN/PlusNews on Friday profiled a commune operated by HIV advocate Paul Ari designed for HIV-positive people who have experienced stigma and discrimination near Mount Hagen, the capital of Papua New Guinea's Western Highlands province.
According to IRIN/PlusNews, people are able to stay at the commune for as long as they need, and relatives are encouraged to visit to help fight stigma related to the virus. Ari said he "show[s] (family members) there's no way they can get the virus" by eating and sharing with the people at the commune, adding that he wants the families to take "ownership" of the commune's clients before they leave. Ari and the commune receive "next to no financial support" to operate the facilities, which include a traditional raffia hut for women and older married men, a smaller hut for younger men and a "contemplation center" for meditation, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Funding to care for the 14 people currently staying at the commune is generated through farming and livestock efforts.
Agnes Mek, head of the Rebiamul HIV clinic, said HIV-positive people are "drawn" to the commune "because they want spiritual help as well as psychological help." IRIN/PlusNews also profiled the group True Warriors, an organization of 300 people living with HIV/AIDS who work to reduce HIV-associated stigma through public speaking, and HIV/AIDS advocate Helen Samilo, who was one of the first people in Papua New Guinea to disclose her HIV-positive status publicly.
According to IRIN/PlusNews, an estimated 2% of Papua New Guinea's six million residents are living with HIV, and HIV prevalence in the country is expected to increase to more than 5% by 2012, with more than two-thirds of the cases in rural areas (IRIN/PlusNews, 1/2). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.