Bilum-making helps HIV/AIDS victims

Faith, Normal

The National, Thursday October 10th, 2013

 WOMEN living with HIV/AIDS in Mt Hagen are being helped to make a living through income-generating activities.

The Baptist Union Church of Papua New Guinea has opened its doors to help disadvantaged mothers and those living with HIV/AIDS through bilum-making and other handicraft.

Women living with HIV/AIDS attended the 9th tri-annual Baptist women’s conference from Sept 23 to 27. They brought tears when they shared their stories of near-death, faith and love during a workshop organised by the Baptist Union HIV/AIDS department.

Women were given basic information on the virus, statistics and how to deal with stigma and discrimination.

The Baptist Union HIV/AIDS department has two groups that associate with people living with HIV, mainly women. They are the ‘true friends’ and ‘true warriors’.

In these groups, women are taught forgiveness, love, Christ and how to sustain themselves through small businesses like bilum-making. 

They are engaged as peer educators to conduct awareness in communities outside Mt Hagen.

Mt Hagen handicraft coordinator, Barbara Pagasa, said the idea of the handicraft shop was to help mothers who had family problems and women who were living with HIV/AIDS.

Pagasa said money generated from the bilum sales were kept for the women.

She said they encouraged the women to save for medical, school fees and emergencies.

The five referral clinics in Mt Hagen are the Tininga STI and HIV clinic, Rabiamul STI and HIV clinic, Anglicare voluntary counselling and testing clinic, Susu Mamas Ante-natal Clinic and the Well Women’s clinic.

Most of the peer educators are sex workers themselves who do awareness on STIs, HIV, condom distribution and referrals.