The National- Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By ANCILLA WRAKUALE
A YOUNG woman from a village in the Trobriand Islands in Milne Bay braved all odds to be the first woman in her community to come out and declare her HIV/AIDS status in the hope of raising awareness against the epidemic.
Lucy Kwemwai, a young mother of two, spoke of her experience last Christmas during an awareness programme at the village.
Finance director with HOPE worldwide (PNG) Inc Frederick Ugwasola was impressed with what he witnessed during a Christmas trip to the Trobriands, adding that there was need for more awareness.
Ugwasola went with the ExxonMobil team which sponsored the trip to mobilise youths for testing and counselling and promote awareness.
Kwemwai told Ugwasola that she had been mistreated by her own relatives for the past five years after they learned of her HIV status.
In her testimony, she said she was just like any other young girl going to school up to Grade 10 when she found her guardians to be less supportive of her future that she began hanging out with her peers, experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol.
Kwemwai said she had contracted the virus from her husband but she did not know until after the birth of their children.
She said her first child is also HIV positive.
Her husband then divorced her because he blamed her for infecting their baby with HIV.
Meanwhile, Kwemwai is currently admitted at the Losuia health centre seeking medical treatment.
She is also the first PLWHA on the island to receive anti-retroviral treatment (ART) as there is a short supply of this important drug for the people there.
As part of the individual awareness on the dangers of HIV, she has been encouraging others, especially young men and women not to follow in her footsteps and to remain faithful to their partners and practice safe sex in order to avoid contracting the disease.
Kwemwai is also encouraging other PLWHAs to come out and talk openly about the issue to raise awareness and education in their communities.