An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
DOCTORS tell us that we must stay safe from HIV AIDS at all costs while donor agencies in partnership with the government of PNG spend millions of dollars every year trying to bring the same message to the people.
HIV AIDS - a disease that does not have any cure at the moment – is, as we all know, spread mainly through sexual contact with someone who has the virus.
When it comes to safeguarding your own life, you don’t have to be told all the time by a doctor –or anyone else for that matter- what you must do to avoid this scourge. The only foolproof way is this: do not sleep around. Abstinence.
Do not have sexual contact outside of marriage. The Good Book, the Bible, says that sexual intercourse out of wedlock is an abomination unto the Lord. Those who abstain from sexual indulgences are absolutely safe. There are no two ways about it.
The government of PNG in collaboration with its development partners has spent millions of kina over the last 10 years to disseminate to the public vital information relating to HIV AIDS.
The relevant authorities such as the national department of health carry out awareness campaigns with familiar slogans like ‘Use Condoms! Stay safe from AIDS’ utilising all available media to bring the message to the masses.
The message is everywhere and we are aware of it. But the question to ask is this: Are people taking heed of the message which is coming to us at a very huge cost to the taxpayers?
Unfortunately, over recent times many people, especially youngsters, in several Highlands provinces have contracted the virus. In fact, health authorities say the number of people living with HIV AIDS in the Highlands has increased dramatically over the last 10 years.
In an attempt to control the spread of this disease, government authorities have been advocating the use of condoms whilst at the same time reminding our youth to ‘stick to one sexual partner.’ That is as far as the government can go at the moment.
The government does not have the means to control the behaviour of an individual. And behaviour change is a necessary step toward curbing the spread of this disease.
Reporting on the HIV epidemic in several African countries, Geoffrey Cowley of Newsweek magazine wrote: “If people lacked only information, a good leaflet might end the epidemic. The trouble is that no one, rich or poor, makes health choices on the basis of information alone.”
So the responsibility rests with you, the individual, to control your own behaviour. Your safety and ultimately your life is in your own hands.
What is really interesting here is that a person’s behaviour can be absolutely contrary to what he or she knows is right and acceptable. People are sexually active so what is the best safety practice?
The government can legislate for the mass distribution of condoms to students across college and university campuses. But is condom use a sure guarantee that one would be safe?
An individual can be told to stick to one sexual partner who is also faithful to him or her. But people nowadays seem to have neither the inclination nor the clarity of mind to remain attached to one partner.
It is clear that all these ‘safety practices’ are proposed because we are trying to contain this epidemic. But people can make their own judgment as to what is the most foolproof way to safeguard one’s life.
The best safety practice is to stay away from needless or wanton indulgences. Then you can rest assured because you are perfectly safe. Abstinence is an absolute guarantee of safety.
And not only are you going to avoid physical suffering but your sense of morality and decency will be intact.