Yesterday we were lucky enough to spend the afternoon with Dame Carol Kidu, PNG’s first woman Cabinet Minister and a staunch campaigner on HIV/AIDS issues.
Dame Carol took us to Port Moresby General the main, and only, hospital in the city. We were briefed by staff running the hospitals Sexually Transmitted Infection clinic which is where most people come to be tested and treated for HIV. The clinic has funding for the Global Aids Fund to provide anti retro viral drug treatment for those who fulfil the WHO criteria for treatment – supply of drugs is often raised as an issue here, but at this clinic the problem was finding the people to treat, there is so much shame and stigma attached to the disease that only one-third of the drugs available are being used.
The difficulties in the health sector and the burden HIV/AIDS is placing on an already dysfunctional system was more than obvious when we visited our next stop, a general ward at Port Moresby General. Feeling very much like voyeurs rather the helpful foreigners we were led into a ward of 63 beds, all full, and many occupied by patients with illnesses contributed to by HIV/AIDS.
For 63 very ill patients there were two junior doctors and two nurses. The nurses generally work 24 hours shifts and many just run-away when they cannot cope with the hours and conditions. On a stifling day the ceiling fans were not operating because the hospital cannot afford to pay the power bill.
It is through these situations that the need for leadership and reform in the health sector is so important – and why donor funding and support is much needed. New Zealand’s funding to the Sector Wide Approach in health seems a small drip in very large ocean when you see the results of the broken systems; but the goals of the programme seem to be exactly what is needed and it seems the results cannot come quickly enough.
Papua New Guinea