Matilda’s perseverance in educating her own people about HIV/AIDS has encouraged them to learn about their HIV status, seek counselling and begin treatment if they test positive.
Matilda has been involved in HIV/AIDS awareness since 2006. She is a person living with HIV and has been on ART for more than 17 years. Matilda uses her story and expertise to educate women and men on the importance of sexual health and wellbeing.
Part of her work includes assisting people to manage the physical and psychological challenges of living with HIV in remote communities.
The Veifa’a Health Centre, in the Kairuku District of Central Province, is among 22 Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) facilities implementing the Sexual Reproductive Health Integration Project (SRHIP) supported by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership.
With SRHIP’s support, Matilda was able to partner with Marie Stopes (PNG) ‘Partnering for Stronger Families Project’ outreach program and the Bereina District Health Services. Together they reached more than 20,000 people with awareness sessions in Mekeo-Kuni, Kairuku Rural Local Level Government areas.
SRHIP is also supporting the CCHS to rollout an expert counselling toolkit for patient counsellors like Matilda. The toolkit assists health workers to support health and wellbeing for people with special needs, including people living HIV.
There is still hesitancy towards testing because of stigma and discrimination. With Matilda’s antenatal and community awareness efforts, 380 people come forward to get tested at the Veifa’a Health Centre. Currently there are 36 people on ART at Veifa’a and 25 of these are women, 10 are men and one infant.
The health centre also has an ongoing program to prevent parent to child transmission, along with the community awareness sessions. Matilda conducts HIV awareness twice per week with mothers at the antenatal clinic. She encourages women and men to know their HIV status and seek treatment to prevent transmission to infants.
Through the SRHIP, around 7,000 people across 11 provinces have been tested for HIV since 2019 and more than 3,000 are currently supported on ART. Through this program, Matilda and other health workers across the country are creating more awareness about the realities of HIV/AIDS – reducing stigma, protecting communities from its spread, and providing treatment so that HIV-positive people can live full and productive lives.
Photo credit: Australian High Commission