By ELIZABETH MIAE
A VOLUNTARY counselling and testing (VCT) centre was opened at the Agevairu Health Centre, along the Hiritano Highway, Central province, yesterday for the public to access information, care and treatment on HIV/AIDS.
The VCT is the first along the highway and will cater for about 15,000 people in the five Gabadi villages, six Nara villages, Hisiu and Kuni villages and the settlements.
Previously, the people had to travel to Port Moresby to get tested and access other services for HIV/AIDS as the only other VCT centre in the Kairuku Hiri electorate was in Veifa which was a distance away.
The project was funded by Unicef, PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP), the Central provincial government and is run by the Sirus Naraqi Foundation (SNF), a non-governmental organisation.
SNF is involved in HIV/AIDS education and awareness, providing care and support to those affected.
It aims to support and help the Government, the National AIDS Council Secretariat and networking partners to implement the NACS strategic plans to check the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Speakers at the opening ceremony appealed to the public to look after the facility and make it a friendly drop-in centre for everyone to use.
Unicef HIV/AIDS specialist Christi Morf told the people the VCT could help to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
She said Unicef priority and focus were on women and children, urging all pregnant women and youths to go for testing in the VCT.
She also called on the community to support those who are living with HIV/AIDS and to respect each other.
Lawrence Stephens, from the PNGSDP, said fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic was in the hands of the people.
“We need to ask ourselves how we are getting infected? How do we live with people living with HIV/AIDS and how do we look after them?” he said.