22 Dec 2010

Stigma aiding Bougainville spread of STIs

4:58 pm on 22 December 2010

The head of a Bougainville NGO says the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections is part of the reason why they're so prevalent in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province.

World Health Organisation statistics reveal that in some communities up to two thirds of certain age groups have STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chancroid.

A lack of clinics and a shortage of trained health workers is ackowledged to be part of the problem.

But Helen Hakena of Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency says many people are too ashamed to admit they're sick.

"People are too scared to come either to the hospital or to let their family members know because of the social stigma attached to this. You know they're so ashamed to be found with this because people will think that they are homosexual or they are prostitute, all these things. They need to be encouraged through awareness to come forward for medical check if they find that they've got all these illnesses."

Helen Hakena says a lack of transport between the outer islands and Buka hospital also makes it difficult for people to be treated.