Church Partnerships Program supports training for HIV counsellors
People living with HIV are being trained to become HIV-counsellors under a church-led initiative to improve the level of support to available to those with the virus.
Twenty-five people living with HIV and their carers from across the Highlands region attended a recent counsellor training session in Mt Hagen hosted by the United Church of PNG.
The session was funded by the Church Partnership Program - a successful partnership between the Australian Government, Papua New Guinea’s seven mainline churches and their seven respective Australian faith-based NGOs.
HIV-positive woman Monica Joe, 40, from Hela Province, was one of 25 participants who attended the HIV and AIDS counselling session, hosted by the United Church of PNG.
She said she was grateful for the assistance she received from the Kupari Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre, run by the Catholic Church.
“In 2013, I took a rapid blood test at the Kupari VCT centre, as this was the only centre in my area offering care services to people living with HIV,” Ms Joe said.
“When I found out about my status, I realised I had to do more to sustain my life for the sake of my children.”
“I started to take the antiretroviral drugs which were introduced that year then worked for the centre as a counsellor and mentor for women living with the virus.
Ms Joe said networks already existed in churches - such as youth ministries, and women’s and men’s fellowships – which could be used to sensitise congregations to the needs of HIV positive people.
Facilitator Lucy Bogaperi said the training sessions covered basic counselling topics including the need for empathy when dealing with HIV positive people.
She said illiteracy and language barriers were common challenges when delivering such training. A number of participants from remote areas of Hela Province did not understand Tok Pisin.