By BOSORINA ROBBY
KAGIN ARON, a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV), came all the way from Henganofi in Eastern Highlands province, to join in the World AIDS Day celebrations yesterday in Port Moresby.
Mr Aron, a self-funded advocate, does his best to fight discrimination and stigmatisation in the community and rural levels as a trainer.
Speaking as a guest on the day, Mr Aron told those gathered that since contracting the virus seven years ago, he had seen that discrimination and stigmatisation were very strong in the villages and rural areas of Eastern Highlands.
He said when he had first gone for testing and found out his status, he was so scared that he did not want to tell his family about it.
Then, in a short space of time, he saw three of his relatives die, not from the virus but from worry and neglect because no one wanted to care for them due to discrimination.
“Mi tingting lo mi yet olsem: sapos mi die, bai husait lukautim tupla meri na tenpla pikinini blo mi? So mi tokim family blo mi lo status blo mi, becos mi laikim ol lo care lo mi so mi bai orait,”Mr Aron said . (I thought to myself: If I die, who would take care of my two wives and 10 kids? So I told my family of my status because I wanted them to care for me so I could live long.)
Since then, Mr Aron has become a trainer and an advocate for fellow PLWHA so that they could live longer, healthier and productive lives if they stay faithful to their treatment, eat healthy diets, exercise and practice their Christian faith.
Mr Aron said it was tough to fund his own travels to do this work but he believed that support would come one day.
He urged all PLWHA to come out and reveal their status so that they could access available help.
Mr Aron said this was the only way stigma and discrimination barriers could be broken.
Outspoken PLWHA Helen Samilo of Igat Hope Inc, spoke on behalf of all PLWHA regarding the ARV (ant-retroviral) drugs they receive.
Ms Samilo said many people did not realise that it took a lot of effort to come out to get tested positive and then to go and get treatment.
She called on the Government and donor agencies and development partners to work out how they would continue to provide ARV to all the men, women and children who were living with the virus.
She pointed out the need to improve the services delivered in terms of having more trained medical personnel and treatment, care and counselling services.
“We really need these services to cater for our needs, so that we can live healthier lives and contribute meaningfully towards the country’s development.
“All we really want is to live and die with dignity,” Ms Samilo said.