Winfred Loiea and Rose Tumange are two remarkable women whose persistence in convincing women and girls living with HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) to stick with their treatment has made a lasting difference.
Both are based in Mt Hagen and are engaged as HIV Expert Counsellors by Igat Hope INC. Winfred works at Rebiamul Catholic Church Health Services Clinic and Rose at Anglicare New Town Clinic. They provide counselling and care for women and girls living with HIV and STIs, as well as HIV negative women and girls seeking services at the facilities.
Igat Hope INC is a member of a consortium, funded by the Australian Government, to provide integrated sexual and reproductive health services. Other members of the consortium include Catholic Church Health Services, Anglicare PNG and Burnet Institute. This group is currently providing HIV treatment and counselling services in 113 clinics across 18 provinces. Between July 2017 and August 2018 approximately one year, the consortium had 6,624 people on HIV anti-retroviral treatment with 19, 729 having received counselling and testing.
In the last six months, Winfred and Rose have helped more than 10 patients resume treatment after lapsing. It is no easy task, but both have shown leadership, courage and commitment in their work, motivated by the desire to save another woman or girl who had lost hope. Both women feel very privileged to have been part of the project in Western Highlands Province.
“It is important that people living with HIV and have started their Antiretroviral Treatment must not stop taking treatment as their health can deteriorate, and also they could develop drug resistance and then need second-line treatment which may be harder for their bodies to tolerate and also more expensive” said Winfred.
Both Winfred and Rose have advised and assisted hundreds of women and girls at their respective clinics who have received treatment. They have witnessed an increase in the number of women and girls freely accessing the services at the facilities, particularly those living with HIV.
“Many women and girls living with HIV who opt out of antiretroviral treatment fear being scolded if they return to treatment. Often they stay away or register with another facility as a new patient. Although they know that treatment is only a bus ride away, they feel reluctant to access the services and suffer silently,” said Rose.
The service they provide is one of the most important aspects of primary health care. For many HIV patients, treatment without good emotional support is insufficient, and the consequences of emotional distress can be significant. That is why the emotional support these women provide is both uplifting and lifesaving.
Providing sustained long-term care can be challenging when patients drop out of treatment or miss appointments. However, at every opportunity, Rose and Winfred ensure they provide the best positive outlook of what it means to enjoy life whilst living with HIV. Their contributions can play a big part in the emotional healing process for many people living with HIV.
“People living with HIV should not be treated differently. HIV does not change the person; it is just a disease that can be treated” said Alfred Mark, Program Manager for Igat Hope INC.
With continued treatment, HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was.
Igat Hope INC was established in 2004. It supports and advocates for people living with HIV and their families. The Australian Government has supported Igat Hope INC since its establishment and is committed to supporting people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea.
For further information, including access to related materials, please contact the Australian High Commission media team: +675 7090 0100
Rose Tumange at the Anglicare New Town Clinic, in Mt Hagen.
Winfred Loiea at the Rebiamul Catholic Church Health Services Clinic also in Mt Hagen.