Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tembari staff and volunteers train in HIV/AIDS counseling

The team from Tembari that underwent capacity-building training on HIV/AIDS counseling. Two of the members are not in the picture.

The cake to mark the graduation of Tembari’s volunteer and staff from the counseling course. – Pictures by PENNY SAGE-EMBO

A Friend of Tembari Children

AS A community-based organization (CBO), the Tembari Children’s Care (TCC) actively involves itself in a range of community issues, with looking after the village’s unfortunate children being its primary concern.

And among such issues that plague the ATS Oro Community is the growing concern over HIV/AIDS virus.

There have already been a number of people from the community who died from the virus, and whose orphaned children (a few of them) are now among those under the care of Tembari.

While this deadly virus continues to kill many in Papua New Guinea, many people in the village remained ignorant of what HIV/AIDS issues are all about, or they just couldn’t care less.

Thus, they continued to have unprotected sex just to discover the dreaded truth that they are now living with the virus.

It goes without saying that they are also unaware of the need for voluntary HIV/AIDS testing to find out their health status in relation to the virus.

Still many in PNG who are themselves suspected carriers stayed away from the HIV/AIDS testing process, thus becoming a ticking time bomb.

It is a challenging task to tell the people about HIV/AIDS, much less encouraging them to submit for voluntary testing, says Patison Kopada, Tembari’s administrative officer.

This is despite the fact that there are a number of functioning VCT clinics in Port Moresby – 16 in all, both operated by NGOs and the government --- and in the provinces to look after those potential carriers.

“We were handicapped with the knowledge of how do deal with it,” Kopada said, referring to the villagers continued defiance to practice safe-sex.

But with the initial training that he and 14 other Tembari volunteer parents and staff received during a five-day training, Kopada said they were optimistic they could make a change in people’s attitude towards unprotected sex.

For five days last week, the 15 Tembari workers trained in “capacity building” on HIV/AIDS counseling conducted by AngliCare Stop AIDS, Care and Counseling.

The training components included basic counseling, home-based care, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT).

The Tembari trainees, who received certificates of recognition, will continue to receive refresher lectures from Penny Sage-embo, Tembari founder and project and program coordinator to enhance their knowledge on their new job.

Herself a certified HIV/AIDS counselor with an NGO based in Port Moresby, Sage-embo is more than capable of imparting more knowledge on the subject.

Sage-embo said that Tembari will soon launch the first salvo, so to speak, to attack the HIV/AIDS problem in the community.

“We will organize a small discussion group composed of parents and youths to know from them what they think of the disease.

“From there, we could begin attacking the problem,” Sage-embo said, aware of the fact that it could be an uphill battle for them.

But she said she would point them (the village parents) to some cases involving Tembari children who were orphaned after their parents, or one of their parents, had died of the virus.

Awareness, Sage-embo said, is the only shield that we could provide to the community to protect them from HIV/AIDS.

She is optimistic that there could be a change of attitude among the people.

“They should (change their attitude), otherwise it is them and their families who will suffer later,” Sage-embo stressed.

Indeed, Tembari doesn’t want to see more children from families devastated by HIV/AIDS.

Its trained volunteers and staff, and the cooperation from the community, may be able to lessen the damage, if not totally stop it.

But as in war, there would always be casualties.

The ill-prepared and the stubborn would always be the first to go down, and this is one scenario that keeps popping up every time.

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