August 3, 2003 – Rediff (India)
British diplomat has Indian lover
by Shyam Bhatia in London
A 29-year-old Indian man from Kolkata has been ‘outed’ by a British newspaper as the male consort of a homosexual British diplomat currently serving as his country’s high commissioner to Papua New Guinea. Pablo Ganguly has been named as the ‘lover’ and ‘lifelong companion’ of High Commissioner Simon Scaddan who was sent to Port Moresby in 2000 after serving as British deputy high commissioner in Kolkata.
The Mail on Sunday quotes Scaddam as saying, ‘The days when gays could be blackmailed are over. Most reasonable people have got used to the idea. Some have not. But they will need to. There was a time when one really had to suppress one’s feelings completely. The fact is that we are not all make-up and high heels. We don’t sashay around. We are professional people doing as good a job as our hetrosexual colleagues in the diplomatic corps.’ Divorced last year from his wife of 32 years, Scaddan also served in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi before he was assigned to Kolkata where he met Pablo, then a student in the city. ‘He was, I would say, a very creative student. I met his parents and they approve of the relationship.
He joined me here (Port Moresby) a year later and he has been an absolute bonus to my work, bringing his own amazing talents,’ Scaddan declares in his interview. Ganguly is expected to live with Scaddan in Edinburgh when the high commissioner retires in a year’s time. Scaddan’s divorced wife Frances is quoted as saying, ‘Simon met Pablo a few years after we separated. He told me he had fallen in love with him at first sight, just like he’d done with me. I have met Pablo on a number of occasions. They came to stay with me two weeks ago.
I know Pablo is a lot younger, but I don’t care. Now I’m divorced from Simon I don’t mind what he does.’ A spokesman for the British Foreign Office in London said, ‘Today’s Foreign Office is open to people from all sorts of backgrounds and increasingly reflects the UK’s highly diverse society. At last week’s Gay Pride Festival in London the Foreign Office had a stand giving out career advice. We need to make sure our diplomats are true representatives of Britain.’
from: Gilbert Herdt, "Sambia boys’ ritual initiation," in Same Sex, Different Cultures: Exploring Gay and Lesbian Lives 1997
Also see: ‘Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia’ by Gilbert Herdt 1984
The Sambia of New Guinea
Semen conservation theory, explored later in this chapter in connection with Victorian sexual norms and mores, emphasizes sexual restraint and the inappropriateness of "wasting" semen through masturbation and too-frequent intercourse. This has been an influential idea in one guise or another in the Western world.
An interesting custom in contrast to semen conservation theory has been called "semen investment theory" (Money, 1992). The anthropologist Gilbert Herdt did a field study of the Sambia, an aboriginal tribe in eastern New Guinea.
Notable were his descriptions of customs related to the development of masculinity and male sexual behavior during childhood and early adulthood. The Sambia believe that semen has powerful properties and that to embark on the path to manhood young boys must drink the semen of young men in their village.
These homosexual interactions are brief and do not involve relationships of any permanence. Sambian boys are taught the growth-promoting qualities of semen through a ritual teaching process:
"Now we teach you our customary story . . . . And soon you must ingest semen in the culthouse. Now there are many men here; you must sleep with them. Soon they will return to their homes. Now they are here, and you ought to drink their semen. In your own hamlets, there are only a few men. When you sleep with men, you should not be afraid of sucking their penises. You will soon enjoy them . . . . If you try it [semen], it is just like the milk of your mother’s breast. You can swallow it all the time and grow quickly. If you do not start to drink it now, you will not ingest much of it. Only occasionally . . . .
"And later when you are grown you will stop. If you drink a little semen now, you will not like the penis much. So you must start now and swallow semen. When you are bigger your own penis will become bigger, and you will not want to sleep with older men. You will then want to inseminate younger boys yourself. So you should sleep with men now."
Both semen conservation and semen investment theories attribute powerful qualities to semen. This Sambian custom is thought to be independent of heterosexual interests, which begin in later adolescence and develop slowly and tentatively.
Indeed, young Sambian men are truly bisexual. Very rarely do adult Sambian males adopt a homosexual orientation; the pressures to establish and provide for a family are keenly felt (Herdt, 1987).
Further references to Sambian sexuality:
April 12, 2007 – nzherald.co.nz
Pacific told it can’t ignore threat of Aids
by Angela Gregory
Pacific politicians have been told to get out of a "denial" mentality and show strong leadership on tackling HIV-Aids or face a crisis of African proportions. An Australian High Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby, told a regional meeting on the issue in Auckland yesterday that he had witnessed the follies of sub-Saharan Africa whose leaders had, at a crucial period, not wanted to tackle the growing problem of Aids. Justice Kirby, who was a member of the inaugural World Health Organisation’s global commission on Aids (1988-92), said he had been invited to South Africa to advise the country of the strategies of New Zealand and Australia, both which had shown good leadership on the issue.
"But they didn’t listen. I told them about what we had done like major public education, ethics in school education, promotion of condom availability and use." In Papua New Guinea, with a population 5.5 million, the rate of new HIV diagnoses had increased at about 30 per cent a year since 1977, raising the potential for a rapid onset in other Pacific islands. Some 1.8 per cent of the adult population was infected with HIV and the prevalence in urban areas might be as high as 3.5 per cent, comparable to the situation in sub-Saharan Africa. "Do not repeat in the Pacific the southern African experience of neglect, denial and inaction." Justice Kirby said politicians had to be upfront and truthful and recommended the decriminalisation of sex workers and other measures. Churches also needed to get involved in the struggle.
The UN resident co-ordinator Papua New Guinea, Jacqui Badcock, agreed strong leadership was crucial, saying: "Without it, tackling the tough and sensitive issues associated with HIV, going against the stream of prejudice and ignorance and ensuring a society-wide and multi-sectoral response is hard to imagine." Work was needed to address the injustice and legal impediments that hindered addressing HIV in the Pacific region where women were increasingly being infected by unfaithful husbands or partners. Papua New Guinea’s Health Minister, Sir Peter Barter, told the Herald it was up to leaders to fight the disease and his country had done more on the issue than its Pacific neighbours. "The rest of the Pacific is in a state of denial."
He said stigmatism against those with HIV had been radically reduced in PNG in just a couple of years. "You can now go to villages and talk about HIV because of the awareness." A visit to Africa last year brought new ideas that had been put in place such as the rapid testing for HIV, which could give a result in 20 minutes. Those infected with HIV were now being treated "at the front of hospital not the back" – a far cry from a decade ago when some highland villagers killed Aids sufferers.
The Samoan Deputy Prime Minister, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, said when he started taking a strong leadership role on HIV-Aids about 12 years ago his political enemies put out a story that he was a "closet queen". "It takes guts in our island communities to be an HIV activist." Mr Retzlaff said political leaders needed to more aggressively harness their communities to do something about the disease.
Nauru’s Health Minister, Dr Kieren Keke, said it was hard to raise issues such as the need for sex education in schools without a community backlash. There was an underground prostitution industry in Nauru – a high risk group in the small country with no known cases of HIV yet – but any attempt to decriminalise it would meet strong resistance. Dr Keke said the strong church influence was part of the problem.
The UNAIDS co-ordinator Pacific sub-region, Stuart Watson, said there were encouraging signs from the churches, although the rhetoric did not always meet the reality. In 2005, Pacific churches had apologised to people living with HIV-Aids for any inadvertent discrimination in the past. Mr Watson said legal measures such as protecting confidentiality in testing and health care were needed in many countries to help combat the disease. "We want to ensure the rights of those living with HIV."
People with HIV-Aids could face judgmental treatment from health workers and face other consequences of a deep social stigma.
29th August 2007 – PinkNews
AIDS epidemic threatens Papua New Guinea
by Alex Donald
Families are resorting to “live burials” of loved ones as a reaction to the rapid spread of the HIV in Papua New Guinea. Margaret Marabe, a known local activist in the country, told the Agence France-Presse: "I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them." She explained that families are resorting to extreme action due to both feelings that they can no longer look after the sufferer and fears that the infection will spread to others. Ms Marabe told Agence France-Presse that one of the five people whom she saw being buried alive was her cousin. "I said, ‘Why are they doing that?’ And they said, ‘If we let them live, stay in the same house, eat together and use or share utensils, we will contract the disease and we too might die’."
Ms Marabe was speaking to reporters in the capital, Port Moresby, where she appealed to the government and aid agencies to ensure that HIV/Aids awareness programmes reached rural areas, where ignorance about the disease was widespread. Papua New Guinea is currently facing a situation that the United Nations AIDS Agency has described as “really getting out of hand”. Diagnoses have increased by 30 per cent each year since 1997. In a recent report, the UN said Papua New Guinea accounted for 90 per cent of all HIV infections in the Oceania region.
At the country’s first national summit on HIV prevention last year, Australia’s representative for HIV/AIDS, Annmaree O’Keeffe, predicted that half a million people could be infected over the next two decades. She suggested a high-intervention strategy to see the infection level drop to around 200,000 people. Peter Piot, head of the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS, earlier this year warned that more than 1.5 million could be infected with the virus by 2015, which he described as an “African-type endemic”. AIDS is mostly spread in the country through heterosexual intercourse, however an AIDS research group also found that half of the new infections were caused by gay sex.
Foundation executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said the group is concerned that the rise in gay infections is due to men choosing not to wear condoms. Young women between the ages of 15 and 29 are twice as likely to be infected than young men of the same age range. Dr Jacqueline Badcock of the United Nations Development Programme told The Advertiser : "Maybe we have the potential to lose the women of Papua New Guinea if we do not take drastic steps to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS." The rapid spread and fear among people is fuelling accusations of witchcraft, with women being tortured and murdered by mobs who hold them responsible for the epidemic. In the past, church leaders have reported AIDS patients being thrown off bridges and being left to starve in back gardens.
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, insists that he has brought the issue under his remit and that the government is working with agencies on a co-ordinated approach to tackling the crisis.
September 3, 2008 – PinkNews
HIV conference told of sexual abuse of youths in Papua New Guinea
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A delegate to the Pan Pacific Gathering for HIV+ People has said that a traditional practice in the Pacific country of Papua New Guinea puts young males at risk of sexual contact from village elders. GayNZ.com reports that the PNG delegate, a transgender woman, spoke out during a closed session at the Auckland conference. 120 HIV activists are attending the conference. She said that a traditional practice of placing youths together in a special house in the village leaves them vulnerable to sexual contact with older males.
The delegate said that openly gay or trans people face discrimination. Papua New Guinea is currently facing a situation that the United Nations AIDS Agency has described as "really getting out of hand." Diagnoses have increased by 30 per cent each year since 1997. In a 2007 report, the UN said Papua New Guinea accounted for 90 per cent of all HIV infections in the Oceania region. Australia’s representative for HIV/AIDS, Annmaree O’Keeffe, predicted that half a million people could be infected over the next two decades.
AIDS is mostly spread in the country through heterosexual intercourse, however an AIDS research group also found that half of the new infections were caused by gay sex.
February 07, 2009 – The Australian
HIV and AIDS infection is spreading in PNG
by Paul Toohey
Johnny is raising three young sons in the settlement of Wanigela, a Port Moresby shantytown. His wife, Vavien, died from AIDS in 2007. She didn’t want to go to hospital and faded away in a grimy shack on Koki Bay. Johnny and Vavien had continued having unprotected sex, despite knowing her condition. She became pregnant and now Johnny’s youngest son, Aaron, 3, is HIV-positive. Aaron gets sick, often. He takes a prophylactic drug called Septrin that keeps opportunistic illnesses at bay. As for Johnny, he doesn’t know whether he’s HIV-positive or not. He’s never had a test and says he doesn’t want one.
Fear of the truth and of stigmatisation, along with polygamy, promiscuity and an entrenched refusal by men to adopt safe-sex habits, has allowed HIV and AIDS to run unchecked in Papua New Guinea, our closest neighbour. It is estimated that HIV and AIDS infection now affects more than 2 per cent of the population, though that will explode to 5 per cent by 2012. HIV and AIDS is a generalised, heterosexual epidemic that will soon consume 70 per cent of PNG’s health resources. Already, half of Australia’s annual $358 million in aid goes on HIV and AIDS programs.
Tessie Soi, co-ordinator of social work at Port Moresby General Hospital, saw PNG’s first official case of AIDS in 1987. Back then, she was unable to help. "I sent that man home to his village to die," she says. She became the founder of Friends Foundation, a non-government organisation that helps people living with HIV and AIDS. Soi advises on the prevention of mother-to-child infection, though she prefers to say parent-to-child, to lessen the blame PNG women tend to cop for spreading the virus.
In 2004, she made a terrible discovery. She was arranging for the burial of eight AIDS patients whose bodies were lying unclaimed in the hospital morgue, having been rejected by relatives. "They pulled open this drawer and there were all these little bundles in the same drawer as this woman we were going to bury," she says. "I thought they were body parts. After we put the woman in her coffin I asked, ‘What are those bundles?’ The attendant said they were babies who had not been claimed. There were 39 of them in the morgue."
Until then, adults and babies had been buried in mass graves. Soi has tried to change that, arranging — with the help of private donors — for baby coffins and single-grave burials. Soi buries between 70 to 90 unclaimed babies every year, most of them, she believes, dead from HIV-related illnesses. In 2007, almost 4000 children were orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
In PNG it is testing during pregnancy that tends to reveal new HIV cases. This was how Linda John, a resident of the Wanigela settlement, learned she was HIV-positive. "I’m not sure how I contracted it," she says. "At the time, I had a couple of boyfriends. And then I was raped when I was lying asleep on the beach. I was pregnant and went to the ante-natal clinic … I cried all day after coming back from the clinic." Her first child, Lindol, 5, was one of the 30 per cent of children born to HIV-positive mothers and found to be negative.
John has so far managed to stay off medication — a twice-a-day regime of three-in-one antiretroviral tablets, provided free by international organisations — by staying healthy. She has a boyfriend who is HIV-positive and says condom use is mandatory, partly because of sexually transmitted infection, but mainly to avoid pregnancy. She is a volunteer of the Friends Foundation, helping 30 HIV and AIDS patients in her settlement. One of them is Julie, a 32-year-old highlands woman who went on antiretroviral treatment after her immune system dropped dangerously low.
The older two of her three children are HIV-negative; her seven-month-old baby will not be tested, according to the PNG regime, until it is 18 months. In a country where HIV and AIDS sufferers have been buried alive, burned to death or locked in shacks with food slid under the door, Julie’s husband, Ernest, says he will confront any discrimination. Nevertheless, sitting in their tiny plywood shack on a boardwalk over Koki Bay, he clears the room of onlookers before talking: the extended family do not know about Julie.
Julie found out she was HIV-positive in 2003. Ernest has taken three tests, all of which were negative. Despite knowledge of Julie’s condition, they continued having unprotected sex, which explains the new baby. Talking quietly with Ernest, there seems to be a fatalistic view based on his love for his wife. It shows that in PNG, living with HIV and AIDS is becoming normal. "I support my wife and I love my family," says Ernest. "I will never worry. I know about this disease and I can look after myself if I am confirmed. We can live a normal life."
Freda Keleba, 31, was not so fortunate with her choice of partner. She ended her first marriage, by which she had three children, and met a new man in 2004. By 2006, Keleba had moved to a western village called Balimo, where she was a teacher. She had a child, Doreen, to her second husband, and was tested for the virus. Because she was never given the results, she assumed she was negative.
Her new husband started losing weight and developed a constant cough. Then Keleba started feeling sick. She went for another test and two weeks later was called to the clinic. They told her she was HIV-positive. They also produced results of a test her husband had taken in 2000, which showed that he and his first wife were HIV-positive. Keleba believes her husband didn’t tell her he was positive because he feared she would reject him. "And it’s true, I would have," she says. She attempted to prosecute her husband, but he died in June last year.
Peter Momo, president of Igat Hope, another HIV and AIDS support network, and himself HIV-positive, says a law was passed in 2005 to allow for prosecutions of wilful HIV-AIDS infections, but no case has yet succeeded. He says women would not make themselves popular by taking such action.
John says HIV-positive people are yet to get the message that their condition can be managed and that the prospects for a normal life are reasonable. Fear of exposure is paramount. The disease is being kept hidden. "If people don’t want to come forward, we have to respect their rights," John says. "Yes, they are endangering other people, but they fear discrimination." Such face-saving measures can last to the end, and beyond. Death certificates read pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria — anything but AIDS.
Gay & Lesbian Travel & Tours in Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is a democratic and pronounced Christian country.It is located in the north of Australia and south western Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. It is one of the most diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under 6 million. It is also one of the most rural, with only 18 per cent of its people living in urban centres. The country is one of the worlds least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.
Homosexuality is prohibited according to section 210 of the penal code. Those caught engaging in anal sex can get punished with up to 7 years imprisonment. Other homosexual acts (acts of indecency) can be punished with up to 3 years imprisonment.
Travel, Vacations and Leisure Activities:
It is one independent choice to have privilege of travelling, having vacations or participating in leisure activities globally. One cannot be disadvantaged because of her or his colour, race, greed, sex or disability. Holidays and vacations is one freedom of choice to exercise.
Papua New Guinea Sites, Attractions and Activities:
Papua New Guinea is blessed with diverse cultures, traditions and customs, ceremonies, rituals, dances, artefacts and landscapes and sceneries. This is one special interests multiple destination.
Special Interests tours available to offer some unique experiences areas;
Bird watching for different specifies of Bird of Paradise Scuba Diving for Reefs/Corals, Wreck Diving, Cruise away Live aboard Dive Cruises Game Fishing for Deep Sea Fishing, River fishing for Black Bass or Barramundi, Trout Adventure Tours- Climbing of Papua New Guinea highest mountain peak ,Mt Whilem 4509 metres, Adventure Walk- Walk the WWII famous bloody trail of Kokoda Trail Visiting the Highlands Mudmen, Huli Wig men Mt Hagen Cultural Show, Goroka Show, Enga Show Cultural tours to visit villages, village studies, home stays Filming For TV Documentary Etc
We have come to establish and operate this small dynamic tour operations or service provider to handle, facilitate, service and coordinator special interest tours for our special interest clients or service their special requirements and handlings.
In view of this, we see no barrier to service and handle any traveller or clients regardless of their race, sex, colour, greed or disabilities, this are our clients and we are to handle and service and deliver their holidays.
Our prime objective of writing to you is to publish or refer us to appropriate Gay & Lesbaian Travel Agencies and Travel Operators to make contact with us so we can establish network and develop Holidays Tours and programs for Papua New Guinea.
For travel itineraries, planning, costing, equipments, cultural briefings, clothings, etc, please email us direct to tailor make special itineraries to suit your holidays and requirements.
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New Guinea Trip Fixers Ltd, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Or telephone: (675) 718 17175
We look forward to receiving a favourable consideration and assistance on this.
New Guinea Trip Fixers Ltd, Serah Pitbat, Operations Coordinator.
May 2010 – AFOA
Papua New Guinea – epicenter of HIV in the Asian Pacific region
by Sharyn Casey
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region. With an estimated annual increase of 15-30 per cent in numbers infected, HIV represents one of the most significant threats to the country’s social and economic growth. HIV prevalence in PNG is estimated at up to 2 pe cent of the total 15-49 year-old population and the World Health Organisation’s Dr Yves Renault predicts that given the current infection rates and the rate of increase, HIV prevalance could reach one million by 2015.
Currently, heterosexual transmission is the predominant means of infection, with approximately equal numbers of men and women affected. Since 2003, more than twice as many young women aged 15-24 have been diagnosed with HIV than young men; whereas males tend to have higher infection levels in older age groups. Significant HIV prevalence rates are found not only in large urban areas, for example the capital Port Moresby, but also in rural pockets typically around primary industry sites. The similarity of sexual behaviour patterns in PNG and Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that PNG’s epidemic has the potential to reach Sub-Saharan African levels.
The resulting impact of HIV on PNG’s economy and society could be devastating. PNG currently receives a significant amount of international aid from countries including Australia and the US. Australia announced earlier this year it would contribute $18.5 million over four years to help fight HIV/AIDS in China, Vietnam and PNG in collaboration with the US Clinton Foundation. The money will be used to increase the countries’ supplies of antiretroviral drugs and support their national health systems. However, foreign aid will not provide a long term solution to the crisis. By 2020 it has been estimated that PNG’s labour force could be 13-38 per cent lower than expected without HIV and its budget deficit could increase by between 9 per cent and 21 per cent. [iv]
Although homosexual transmission has not been the major route for transmission to date, working with men who have sex with men (MSM) is crucial given the country’s unique society and its highly sexual culture. Almost two-thirds of the population is Christian and the use of condoms has historically not been supported or encouraged by the Catholic church in particular. Homosexuality is illegal, and many MSM also have female partners. Coupled with this, there are high migration rates which also set the stage for a potentially rapid spread of HIV.
Working with at risk populations
Save The Children is the only organization in PNG to work openly with MSM. The program is centered on MSM in Port Moresby and Lae and promotes condom use and HIV testing through peer education and an MSM support group. The organization also works with female sex workers and educates police on the issues of discrimination facing these marginalised groups. With funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an STI (sexually transmitted infections) clinic was opened earlier in 2006 in Port Moresby. The first of its kind, the centre provides confidential STI testing or people at risk, particularly MSM. The centre is staffed by two registered doctors and two lab technicians and was established in consultation with the PNG National Department of Health.
Although the STI clinic is a major step forward there is a lot of judgment around MSM making it difficult to encourage testing, says Peter* who manages the MSM project in Port Moresby and Mike* who manages the program in Lae. Mike and Peter both identify as gay, giving them a first hand insight into the issues facing MSM in PNG. Peter is openly gay to his family and living with his male partner in Port Moresby – a risqué thing to do in such a conservative society. Mike lives in Lae near his family and although they know he is gay, it’s not something openly discussed. In PNG, MSM activities are usually hidden under the umbrella of mateship. “In smaller communities, like Lae, if you had a male partner, people would just think you are best mates,” Mike said.
“It’s the attitude of judging that makes it hard (for MSM to be open),” Mike said. “Christianity teaches about love but a lot of people who call themselves Christian are very judgmental. Homosexuality is a taboo subject. They know they (MSM) exist, but the community does not talk about it.” Peter and Mike facilitate two-week training programs for peer educators, arming them with information on HIV transmission and the impact of drugs and alcohol on HIV transmission. “We emphasise most strongly the use of condoms and lots of lubricants,” Mike said. In talking about sex, peer educators are trained to be discreet. “To buy a condom is seen to promote sin. So when we talk to people, we need to be sure that we are not too confrontational. Most of the time, condoms are supplied through social workers and our peer educators tell people where to get condoms where there is no shame,” Mike said.
Because of the silence around MSM activities, reaching MSM communities, particularly outside the capital, was initially difficult. Sexual activities take place in a beat culture and group sex is not uncommon. “Chances are MSM sex will take place outside of the home,” Peter said. “It could take place at a bus stop, a market or in the bush. Group sex also happens often – we call it lineups – where usually a group of boys would line up for sex with one girl or a boy with or without their consent. These lineups can be sporadic or organised, with organised lineups taking place in hotels, guest houses or even picnic venues.”
There is also growing use of marijuana and “steam”, a home made brew with an alcohol content close to 100 per cent. Marijuana and steam are often used together and the combination seems to be highly addictive, Mike and Peter say. Aside from the health problems of ingesting such a high alcohol content, there is also a high risk of unsafe sex associated with substance abuse. “When you get like that in the head you don’t know if you use a condom or not and you often have no control to stop and think about using a condom,” Peter said.
The only way to stop the spread of HIV among vulnerable communities such as MSM and the wider heterosexual population they may also come into sexual contact with is to get people talking. “We need people to open up about sex. To do this, people need to feel able to be open about being gay,” Mike said. However, this is unlikely to happen unless homosexuality is decriminalized. “Only then will attitudes change and people feel safe to talk about it.” Decriminalizing homosexuality might be a pipedream, but Peter and Mike plan to keep plugging away. “From the PNG perspective, HIV is one hell of a battle…it’s still a long way ahead of us. “Our challenge is to get people openly talking about sex. Because of the epidemic, we don’t care who, where or when. The most important things is to know that there are services available and that the safe sex message is out there.”
29 June 2010 – AFAO
The rise of positive champions in Papua New Guinea
by Robert Baldwin
We take people off the streets … encourage them to be tested. Some are HIV-positive. What then? The Poro Sapot Project (PSP) is an HIV/AIDS behaviour change intervention project based on peer outreach, primarily targeting female sex workers and men who have sex with men, including transgender people. 3 Importantly, it uses a peer outreach model to reduce the negative impact of HIV. Poro Sapot basically means ‘friends supporting friends’.
Implemented by Save the Children PNG in Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka and Kainantu, PSP addresses the needs of target populations who engage in high risk behaviours, and who are not easily reached by traditional activities promoting HIV/STI prevention and care. One indication of the success of PSP’s peer approach is the number of current PSP staff who first came into contact with the service as clients, and who then became volunteers and employees. They know what it means to be sex workers and men who have sex with men in PNG: an understanding crucial to PSP’s work.
The July 2008 review of PSP found that:
… due to the good work of the project in reaching female sex workers and men who have sex with men, and promoting voluntary counselling and HIV testing,
many more HIV-positive female sex workers and men who have sex with men are becoming involved in the project. 4 The review recommended that PSP, in collaboration with partners, develop innovative programs to ‘support holistic health and well-being needs of HIV-positive female sex workers and men who have sex with men’. On the basis of those findings, PSP initiated a GIPA (Greater Involvement of people living with HIV [PLHIV]) Audit.
Undertaking a GIPA Audit
The PSP GIPA Audit was conducted in April 2009 by a team of four people living with HIV: two current PSP staff members (Nick and Dorothy), the GIPA Advocacy Officer from Sanap Wantaim (Maura, PNG AusAID agency) and an international consultant (Robert). Nick, Dorothy and Maura are all past Board Members of Igat Hope, the PNG PLHIV network. Between them, the four members of the team had nearly fifty years of combined experience of living with HIV.
The GIPA Audit aimed to:
* assess how PSP has worked with people living with HIV, including the strengths and weaknesses of that work
* deepen PSP’s understanding of the concepts of GIPA and ‘positive prevention’
* recommend ways to incorporate these concepts into ongoing work share experiences develop local skills required to perform such an audit, and
* pilot this method for use by other civil society organisations within PNG.
The audit process involved consultations at all four project sites with staff, female sex workers and men who have sex with men outreach volunteers, local PLHIV leaders and project partners.
Findings of the GIPA Audit
The GIPA Audit Team found:
* several activities by and for HIV-positive people had already been successfully conducted at PSP
* a wide variety of ongoing care activities for HIV-positive female sex workers and men who have sex with men had been willingly conducted by staff and volunteers, usually beyond their job descriptions and often utilising their own resources
* most positive staff and volunteers within PSP seemed to be hidden behind a veil of secrecy around being HIV-positive, and
* since the PSP Review in mid-2008 there had been four deaths of HIV-positive volunteers and clients.
Sadly, since the 2009 Audit there have been a number of other deaths at PSP from HIV-related illness, including a much-loved member of the PSP senior staff, Jason. The GIPA Audit Team also found that while overall there was a low level of theoretical knowledge about GIPA and ‘positive prevention’, 5 there was general agreement by PSP staff, volunteers and partners on the need to meaningfully involve people living with HIV as equal partners in the project and to work collaboratively to empower positive people to improve their health and well-being. The Audit Team was particularly impressed that despite the project being formally defined as HIV prevention focused, there was clear willingness of PSP staff and volunteers to incorporate care and support activities for positive female sex workers and men who have sex with men within their project,: ‘This was outstanding to me. Something great is coming up and I’m very proud’. 6