Monday December 1, 2014 – World AIDS Day is an occasion for us to come together and reflect on the impact that AIDS has had not only on our community, but also the world.
It also a reminder that the world and our communities cannot become complacent in protecting ourselves from all kinds of viruses, including the most recent outbreak of the ebola virus.
Our world will never be free of viruses such as HIV and Ebola. They are a fact of life. Our best defence is prevention, education and awareness, and our best strategy for those affected by viruses such as HIV is love, support and understanding.
This is one thing we have learnt as a global community – no one is ever alone – we stand together and united through community programs and initiatives such as the Business Coalition Against HIV/AIDS.
HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus – and AIDS – the consequential Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome continues to have an impact on our society.
The first World AIDS Day was in 1988 – that is over a quarter of a century ago.
More than 35 million people around the world, from all walks of life, have died from the virus. The virus does not discriminate and as yet there is no antibody or cure.
The virus is still with us, affecting our communities and having a devastating impact on individuals and their families.
In recent years we have improved treatment and understanding of those living with HIV. Today we show support of those people living with HIV – they are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children.
Today we also recognise those who have died from AIDS.
There is one person I wish to recognise today who really helped change the way we treat people living with HIV in PNG, and I think now is a good time to reflect on her life and the enormous contribution she made to our understanding of HIV and AIDS.
Speech by Mr Erastus Kamburi, Chief Legal Officer & Officer in Charge, IPBC
Helen Samilo became popular through a short TV series, called Helen’s Story. Perhaps many of you here today remember the program that aired on EMTV in 2007.
Helen bravely told her story as a young woman living with HIV, she told of the impact it had on her and her family. Helen was a powerful advocate for people living with HIV – not only in PNG but also in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
In March 2008 Helen was awarded the prestigious Woman of Courage Award by the United States of America.
Helen sadly lost her battle against HIV in July last year.
The National Association of People with HIV in Australia or NAPWHA posted a tribute to Helen Samilo on its website.
“NAPWHA remembers Helen as a true leader, a wonderful person and great advocate. She was talented and courageous. Helen was an inspiration to many, many people in Australia. She will be greatly missed.
Helen’s death prompts us to reflect on the precariousness of the PNG response. The country has too few HIV positive advocates so the loss of each is a personal and community tragedy.
We must ask what else we can do to keep people with HIV alive in PNG. Despite HIV treatments being free and, at least in Port Moresby, accessible, more needs to be done. All sectors – government, community, faith-based, donor – must work together to support access to treatments and to provide support and encouragement for the people taking them.”
We must continue awareness of HIV and AIDS on a continuous basis. Not just on World AIDS Day. Not just one day a year.
In this regard I applaud the work being done by PNG Power to continue to educate its sizeable workforce of nearly 1,500 people in issues confronting their communities – issues such as HIV/AIDS and Violence Against Women.
In fact I acknowledge all the work being done by our State Owned Enterprises in educating the greater workforce in matters that affect their families, friends and society in general.
Our workforce represents an educated mass of people capable of educating the greater community and I encourage all our workers around Papua New Guinea to take on this responsibility – of being educators, of spreading the word and not the virus.
I note that PNG Power has also used this occasion to reinforce its “white ribbon day” message. White ribbon day was held on November 25 and is a campaign to stop violence against women.
Today the front page of the Post-Courier tells the story of how three women accused of sorcery were rescued from death. Social media also continues to carry stories of women who have been bashed, often by those that they love and trust the most.
I recall when I was 10 years old, my small sister made me upset and I hit her. She was crying when my Dad called me up and after allowing me to explain what had happened, he told me to extend my right hand to him
He held my hand – picked up a razor blade and made a fine cut on the hand I had used to punch my sister.
Nowadays that would be child abuse – but in those days, the one meter ruler was an instrument of discipline and a symbol of respect.
And so as the blood was dripping from my hand, my Dad told me that when it heals you will have a mark on your hand – look at it when you grow up and remember what I am about to tell you – he said:-
“Your sister does not have the same strength as you have. She needs your love and protection. Never raise this hand again against your sister or any woman in your life.”
Now that I have a family of my own, I do not use the same method that my father used on me – but I show them the mark on my hand and tell them the message that he gave me.
I guess, what I am trying to say is that, we as parents must begin the message at home with our own children.
Any form of domestic violence or violence in our communities is deplorable, whether it be violence against women by men, or violence against women by women, or even violence against men by women. Violence against children is also deplorable. May I say, these are not just PNG issues, they exist even within the world’s most advanced societies.
I truly believe that the answer is with God. If we follow God and pursue Goodness in life then Good will come.
We should also continue to seek the inspiration and guidance of God in dealing with social and workplace issues such as HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. This teaches us compassion, understanding and most of all it teaches us that we are never alone, as individuals, as societies, as a nation…we are part of the global community in this fragile planet we call home.
On this World AIDS Day, December 1, 2014 may God Bless those that have been impacted by HIV/AIDS, God Bless those that are doing support and advocacy work, God Bless the Business Coalition Against HIV/AIDS and the contribution PNG Power is making, and God Bless Papua New Guinea.
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