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Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Secretariat of the Pacific Community

A Pacific voice at the International AIDS Conference

Toronto, 16 August 2006 – In the midst of the incredible noise and energetic buzz surrounding the 25,000 people attending the International AIDS Conference, PNG’s National AIDS Council representative, Clement Paine, exudes calm and wisdom.

I bumped into him as he was walking out of a session entitled “Good Catholics Use Condoms”.

“In the Pacific we are still in denial about HIV, but this is dangerous – it means that it is more difficult to address the problems linked to it,” said Paine. “We need to get down to earth and realise that HIV is here, it is part of our life now, and we must for instance uphold our traditions of looking after the sick rather than giving in to ignorance and fear.”

As a trainer for the National AIDS Council in his province of East Sepik, and a member of the Catholic church, Paine runs a VCCT centre as well as a training facility – the biggest in PNG – on his church’s land. He and his wife have been involved in HIV work since a young friend of theirs died of an AIDS-related complication a few years ago.

“It is our moral responsibility to help protect people. I have a lot for and against condoms but the least I can do is give people the information they need and then it is up to them to make their decision.”

Impressed with the range of issues covered during the International AIDS Conference, Paine is particularly interested in recent findings on new prevention methods such as microbicides and new types of vaginal condoms.

“This week’s programme in Toronto has been very intense, but it is great to be able to talk to different people and learn from best practices in other countries of the world. Some of these we can adapt to our own local environment.”

The human rights of sex workers and gay/bisexual/lesbian/trangendered people have also been an important part of the conference programme. “The Church will have to accept this bit by bit. We talk about the world ‘out there’ but refuse to see what is happening at home.”


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