Watch “Sick No Good – Papua New Guinea” documentary below:
Sick No Good Synopsis
Reporter: Matthew Carney
A member of a ‘raskol’ gang talks about rape as a ritual part of crime. A career truck driver on the highland’s highway picks up a teenage prostitute – just part of his routine. A ‘hostess supervisor’ at a Port Moresby brothel explains that he may tell clients to use a condom with his girls but that sometimes he is too tired to bother. These are voices from Matthew Carney’s intimate report on how Papua New Guinea became a hot spot for the AIDS virus.
Australia’s closest neighbor, the nation that accounts for much of Australian foreign aid, may lose the best part of a generation to AIDS. Per capita the infection rate is four times higher than in Australia. And these are the known cases. PNG’s National AIDS council estimates the true figure for HIV infections could be 6 times greater than official numbers. Though it is kept quiet, two members of the National Parliament are HIV positive.
The nation’s health system can’t cope. Out of many thousands of sufferers, only about 600 take life extending anti-retroviral medication. Medicines are available for broader distribution but the bureaucracy and health infrastructure cannot cope.
Then there’s the stigma. In remote communities AIDS deaths are attributed to sorcery while the sick are shunned. Even in the capital families are too ashamed to collect and bury the bodies of victims. The city morgue overflows.
National media campaigns try to educate people – but in a traditional society with more than 800 languages– the only solution is community education, repeated in every suburb or village, not just in pidgin but in local languages.
Here the tragic picture develops some bright spots. In the Port Moresby suburb of Gorobe one woman, HIV positive herself and on anti-viral medication, has started to turn the epidemic around. Maura Mea has slashed the rate of sexual assault and unprotected sex in her community. She’s done that through ceaseless education, talking to young men, explaining to teenagers how AIDS is spread.
Among the sad and disturbing portraits in Matthew Carney’s documentary, are remarkable people like Maura Mea and Catholic Sister Rose Bernard who goes from village to village to minister to the sick and dying. We are reminded that a society riven by sickness and fear can also produce uplifting examples of selflessness and common sense.