Australia-Backed Papua New Guinea Inmates Take AIDS Message to Settlements
December 19, 2006
As part of a $100 million Australian ($78 million U.S.) program to combat AIDS in Papua New Guinea (PNG), inmates from the Bomana jail outside Port Moresby are being trained as peer HIV educators.
After undergoing HIV/AIDS awareness training by Australia's law and justice sector program, low-security status inmates recently visited the Koki market to perform songs and plays to educate onlookers about the disease. Bomana inmate Barry Pale, the group's performance coordinator, said the songs and dramas portrayed issues surrounding risky behaviors, including prostitution, polygamy, violence against women, and alcohol and drug use. The goal was to educate residents of poor city settlements where AIDS awareness is low.
"They really appreciate us," said Pale. "They have never seen this before and some shed tears. When prisoners go in, it tears them apart, we reach their hearts."
PNG Correctional Services Sergeant Cyprian Wunum said the benefits of the program outweigh the potential security risks. "We are happy they will not escape," he said. "We have worked with them for a long time. They have changed through this and want to tell the community what they have learned in prison."
Australia is the largest contributor in the fight against HIV/AIDS in PNG, where 2 percent of the population is estimated to be living with HIV. The aid money will be spent over five years to support PNG's government efforts against the disease. In addition, Australia is contributing $50 million ($39 million U.S.) to PNG's health sector.
Australian Associated Press
12.07.2006; Lloyd Jones