AIDS is PNG's top problem, students tell Bishop

Speaking with Melbourne auxiliary Bishop Christopher Prowse, Papua New Guinea students named AIDS as the top problem facing the country but none of them identified abstinence or faithfulness to one partner as among the best strategies for combating the disease.

According to The Age report over the weekend, with the HIV infection rate of up to 30 per cent in areas of Papua New Guinea's remote highlands, missionaries are concerned that AIDS has become a new threat to local communities.

Students confirmed these fears to Bishop Prowse during his visit to PNG's Gulf province last month.

When he questioned final year students at Bema on what they saw as the biggest problems faced by their country, AIDS was the first one identified.

Suggested strategies to combat the disease included compulsory testing for HIV to removing people with AIDS from communities.

But no student put forward the notions of abstinence and faithfulness to a single partner, the Age report says.

Nevertheless, missionaries in the region are holding tight to the Church's line on AIDS prevention, Bema Mother Superior, Sr Claudia Mendes told the Age.

"If a man is already affected, to keep the family together, the Catholic Health Workers advise the man to use the condom or the lady to use a lady condom.

"Generally we don't advise them to use condoms as it is not 100 per cent safe," she says.

Although Sr Mendes recognises that condoms are being used by young Kamean men at local "discos", fidelity and abstinence still remain the foundation for the fight against AIDS, the Age reports.


HIV fight far from clear-cut in PNG (The Age, 2/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne: Bishop Christopher Prowse
The Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
Caritas Australia in PNG

Oceania bishops voice concern on climate change, AIDS (CathNews 15/8/06)
Cardinal backs limited condom use (CathNews 24/4/06)
PNG bishops argue condoms OK for some (CathNews 30/3/06)
PNG Bishop objects to condom call (CathNews 15/3/06)
Church in Africa continues AIDS fight without condoms (CathNews 10/10/03)

25 Sep 2006