Hope shown in war against stigma

National

By OGIA MIAMEL
Stigma and discrimination are barriers that prevent key populations from accessing vital health services in communities.
But despite the high levels of stigma, there is hope that people will change the way they see them.
A new project started this year by Hope Worldwide PNG and National AIDS Council called Kisim Save na Helpim Hauslain aims to partner with the media and civil society organisations such as  Friends Frangipani and Kapul Champion to create education and awareness.
It will also improve the key populations’ access to HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) services within National Capital District and other provinces.
The term ‘key populations’ (KPs) refers to individuals who are identified as sex workers, men who have sex with other men, men and women who are bisexual, trans-genders and individuals who are HIV-positive.
A media sensitisation workshop was held last month under the project banner. It gathered journalists from different media outlets and representatives from community service organisations to discuss a way forward on how they can effectively report issues affecting key populations.
According to project coordinator Josephine Kaola, the workshop also provided an opportunity for the media to report on different programmes that advocated for improved accessibility to quality health services. Correct terminologies of key populations were also highlighted for the media to use to avoid discriminatory reporting.
The workshop was organised and facilitated by Hope Worldwide PNG and NACS, with funding support from the United States Ambassador’s small grant programme.
Kaola explains that the chain effect of key populations not accessing health services affects families, communities and the country.
“For instance, the chain effect of the HIV virus on innocent lives like babies, wives and children of men go around with key populations,” she said. “In such situation, a husband can bring the virus home and infect his innocent wife and when both are sick, innocent children’s welfare and education will be affected.
“The country will also lose its human resource because some well-off men and women go around with KPs and the spread of HIV is happening anonymously.”
The Kisim Save na Helpim Hauslain project plays a vital role in trying to identify those key barriers at the community level with the support of the CSOs and creates avenues for service providers, donors and stakeholders to discuss how all can work together to provide a holistic service to the key populations.
Some of the barriers identified were location of clinics, health workers lacking ethics to hold patients’ confidentiality, public shaming and abuse of power by police officers.

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