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How my Dutch experience ends up in a Papua New Guinea Knowledge Asset

We got out in Tent City settlement in Lae exposed to the burning Papua New Guinea sun. 60 people from five provinces including the Deputy Mayor were packed in two full buses followed by a special security car for the WHO rep and the UNICEF vice-director. 30 settlers waited for us in the community. With almost 100 people, we did a peer assist in the community on the three priority practices of Tent City: Inclusion, Access to Treatment and Mobilising Resources. An incredibly rich experience and an ‘eye-opener’ according to the donors. That day, 67 people of Tent City signed up for a VCT during World AIDS Day! This was part of their own AIDS Competence action plan. It is clear that Tent city broke the silence and is gradually becoming AIDS Competent.

So I sat down in the settlement. Surrounded by 20 settlement people from 5 PNG provinces, I shared my story: How I took an STI/ HIV test in the Netherlands. A former girlfriend called me three months after we broke up telling me I needed to go for a test, because there was some risk. So I did and was fortunately negative, but I had an STI (Chlamydia) which was fortunately easy to treat. I shared about how I knew from a friend where to get tested, how I got to the VCT centre and the counselling I got. That experience really made me reflect upon my vulnerability. People listened deeply to my story and appreciated our ‘common humanity’. Although I am a ‘white skin’, I am not different. Now I am happy my experience is part of the Knowledge Asset on ‘Access to Treatment’ of the Papua New Guinea National Knowledge Fair.

The PNG National Knowledge Fair. I would better describe it as the National Inspiration Fair. The provincial facilitators, often community focal people, presented ACP, facilitated peer assists in the community and were overwhelmed by the learning from other provinces. We as facilitators could simply stimulate sharing and smile. If you would look up ‘local ownership’ in the dictionary, you would find a picture of this National Inspiration Fair! WHO, UNICEF, National AIDS Council, Red Cross, Department of Health. All of them attended the event and were highly impressed by the capacity of the trained facilitators and their valuable stories.

On the second day, Kasure, a community focal person from Goroka province asked me: Can I share my story in front of the group? So he shared how he used to be a ‘raskol’ (Pidgin for criminal). He robbed banks, drank, used drugs and engaged in rape. Now, he became a true inspiration for his community. He does community counselling, does home visits and takes care of the PLHIV in his settlement. What made the difference for him? “They showed me that I had strengths! That really changed my life.”

Although the process is coming to its end in PNG, it seems this is only the beginning. Red Cross wants ACP in 13 provinces. The Tingim Laip community program wants ACP in 36 ‘hotspots’ and the National AIDS Council included ACP in their 2009 plan. The National Facilitation Team ‘PNG Competence’ will be registered in the next weeks and will apply for Global Fund. Partners and donors are convinced: This is the way forward and we are rolling it out at scale! As Lester, social mobilisation manager of the Tingim Laip/ Ausaid program pointed out: I have tried several community-based approaches, but ACP works best, is sustainable and designed to go to scale at lower costs. Great, but it puts the ball back to us. As in many other countries, it’s time for the Constellation to think scale!

Share your ideas on going to scale on my forum posting:

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Comment by rebeka sultana on December 15, 2008 at 1:08pm
Truth and open mind can only bring this. Gaston, what a beautiful story of success. I want to know more about the PNG AIDS Competence experience, want to know the history, where and how they have started, how many provinves, how many facilitators etc. How they had proceeded and reached here today. I want to know more. Where can I get that?

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