June / July 2009 - Issue 10

June / July 2009 - Issue 10

HIV in PNG

I'll call her Suzie.

SHE CAME WITH A 2YR OLD BOY, HER YOUNGEST


He lay still, but labouring to breathe in her arms, a feeding tube through his nose. Her husband was with her. This was their first time to the clinic, clutching a referral letter that told the sad story. The child, who had been sickly all his life, was newly diagnosed with tuberculosis at the paediatric clinic. Further tests showed he had HIV, so the parents accepted testing as well. Both were positive. The shock and sadness was clear as Suzie told her story, but she was anxious to do all she could for her health, in order to look after her four children. "Blaming each other isn't going to help, so we will look ahead and work together as a family" she said. Speaking to the husband separately, he admitted he had known about his HIV for over two years, but hadn't told his wife. He said it was his fault, and had gotten the sickness from eating a locally made iceblock. I registered both of them to the HIV clinic and spent some time counselling them. We arranged a followup appointment with difficulty, because the man was going to be away on a business trip for the next few months.

Doing the sums, I realised that if he had told his wife earlier while she was pregnant, she could have gotten the medicine and care needed to help prevent her child being infected. Inside the family, shame and stigma take their toll. Inside the health system poor screening of pregnant mothers plays a part too. God's message of forgiveness (we all need it) and our obligation to care for one-another is just so relevant here. As is the message of faithfulness in marriage.


I enjoyed being a doctor again and seeing patients in the main HIV clinic of the country. They have 2000 patients registered in the clinic, just some of the around 2-3% of PNG's population that are thought to have HIV. Most don't know they do, partly because it takes so long for the person to become sick. In a small hospital like Rumginae, people are concerned their status will be found out by everyone. And the actual antiretroviral medication has not been readily available, so the diagnosis has been a rather hopeless one. Of course, when people don't know they have the infection they are more likely to spread it around... I'm looking forward to being involved with stepping up Rumginae Hospital's HIV services, but I'll save that until I've finished this orientation time in Dande village. After all, being in the village is all part of me learning how to give holistic care in this place.



It feels like a long time now since I've been in the village. Over five weeks. It has been a good break from the intensity of learning Aekyom, but I have improved my pidgin and made some new friends with other health workers in the province. Now I'm going back to the outdoor life and garden food that I have missed, hopefully ready to step up my language learning. I'd appreciate you prayers as I change lifestyle again and face the daily challenges.

Do not fear

Coming up in Kiunga, our nearest town is a women's workshop which will attract people from villages near and far. The topic is exciting, full of the truth that God is in control and we will not fear spirits when we fear him. Pray for the presenters from Rumginae district, who are doing this workshop again because it meant so much to them last year. Pray that many ladies will turn to trust God.

Prayer & Praise


  • Pray for Suzie's family and others like hers to know God's love and forgiveness.
  • Pray that this "Christian country" will truly change to follow God.
  • Pray for Rumginae health workers to be motivated and able to use their skills in giving HIV awareness, screening and treatment, with hope and compassion.
  • Pray for great language learning and lots of grace for me in Dande village.
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