WHP HIV/AIDS worker leaves after 47 years

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday, May 10, 2011

HIV/AIDS advocate and counsellor, Sr Rose Bernard of Banz, in the Western Highlands (WHP), has left PNG after 47 years of service.
Bernard returned to the USA on May 1. 
She arrived in PNG on Sept 1, 1964, to work as a primary school teacher and taught in many different schools in WHP.
She was the principal at several schools, including St Edward Primary, St Elizabeth Primary and Notre Dame High School.
Since her first contact with HIV/AIDS in 1985, she took it upon herself to educate the people of the province on its dangers.
She researched the disease and spoke on her fear of an HIV/AIDS epidemic striking here.
Her worst fears came true when the first two known cases happened in her parish in November 1990.
She developed teaching tools and aids to teach people about the disease.
At the same time, she learnt about the disease herself and started to provide counselling to those affected.  
She worked tirelessly to ensure community leaders, families and individuals, especially women and girls, had a basic understanding of the dangers of HIV/ AIDS.
Bernard took part in a pilot project called ‘Community Conversations’ which encouraged dialogue between communities and villages.
National AIDS Council chairman Sir Peter Barter hailed Bernard’s contribution to fighting HIV/AIDS, saying she had committed her life to educating and counselling people from all walks of life.
“Her invaluable contribution will leave a huge gap in HIV/AIDS work.”
Sir Peter said Bernard’s work must continue, especially voluntary counselling and testing, treatment and care.
He said her departure would be a loss to the country and WHP.
She provided care and support to the first five positive people who were prescribed with anti-retroviral drugs when  first introduced in 2002.
She ensured people who were on ART were given the right food to eat to withstand the impact of the drug on their bodies.
National AIDS Council secretariat director Wep Kanawi described Bernard as a champion.
“Sr Rose has set the precedence and it must be seen as a challenge for Papua New Guineans to follow instead of sitting and waiting,” he said.