23 Jan 2017

PNG leader says HIV/AIDS remains a stigma with churches

9:12 am on 23 January 2017

A Christian leader in Papua New Guinea says the country's churches need to overcome discrimination and stigma to make a real difference in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A woman walks past a HIV/AIDS billboard in PNG

A woman walks past an AIDS billboard in PNG Photo: AFP

PNG has extremely high rates of the virus, with a prevalence rate of about 0.5 percent, according to a 2013 UN AIDS report.

Andrew Hama, from the PNG Christian Leaders Alliance on HIV/AIDS, is organising a summit in March with the country's churches, government and NGOs, to try and co-ordinate their response.

Churches play a key role in healthcare and education in Papua New Guinea, and Mr Hama said they are key to helping combat the virus.

But he said the church also has to overcome some of its stigmas - particularly against the homosexual community.

"We do understand that the churches are actually a key player in terms of addressing HIV/AIDS on the ground, but the stigma and discrimination part of it remains a challenge not only for the church leaders, but for the whole country and we feel that the church leaders need to take a more proactive approach," he said.