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Jul25TueAs HIV rates increase, medical missionaries provide care and spiritual support. July 25, 2017 by April Barthau
In September 2016, Canadian Salvationists April Barthau and Marco Herrera Lopizic embarked on a two-year mission in Papua New Guinea. A nurse and a doctor, they are running The Salvation Army's medical services in Port Moresby. In this blog for Salvationist.ca, April and Marco share their experiences.
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We have now been living in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for 10 months! As we near the mid-point of our two-year mission, we continue to learn about the country and its fascinating culture as it tries to incorporate both village life and the mentality of the “modern world,” which continues to spread through PNG. This requires a fine balancing act from the government, communities and individuals as questions are raised about everyday life, traditions and what PNG culture will look like in the present and future.
We are thankful for God’s guidance when it comes to shaping the care patients receive at Koki Clinic and Ela Beach. We have seen great changes in the staff’s attitudes and a growth in professional knowledge and capacity as we journey with them. Our goal is to maintain the standards we have set thus far and to continue to improve our services in collaboration with the staff. These past months we started collaborating with the new divisional commander to provide a devotional on Monday mornings for our patients before we attend to their physical and emotional needs. There is so much need for spiritual healing, which is manifesting itself as physical pain. We believe that this is a good step toward providing a safe environment where patients can seek spiritual counselling if needed, in collaboration with the divisional staff.
In February, I had the privilege of attending training in Integrated Management of Adult Illness (IMAI) in Chronic HIV Management. I flew to Mount Hagen where I spent two weeks learning the theory of HIV treatment and management of symptoms. In PNG, it is the health-care workers, nurses and doctors who assess and treat patients. During the third week of training, I returned to Port Moresby where I spent a week at the general hospital treating and prescribing medicine to HIV patients. This training will help our clinics as Ela Beach rolled out HIV treatment in February and Koki is already treating more than 375 HIV-positive patients. Marco is able to treat any complicated infections that come in, and now I will be able to see patients with our health-care worker, Walter, in order to help prevent staff burn out.
This year, PNG declared a state of emergency for both TB and HIV. In 2015, the incidence of HIV was 2.57 percent for the National Capital District and 2.5 percent in the Highlands, and we are seeing the rates increasing. The exact national figure is unknown and depends by who is conducting the study, but with a new computer program to track patient care and statistics we hope to have a more concrete number this year. Needless to say, there is a lot of education and work to be done.
In March, Marco attended the HIV Summit for PNG Christian Leaders Alliance on HIV and AIDS, along with Heather, our receptionist, Major Ridia, House of Hope manager, and Colonels Julie and Kelvin Alley, where he presented on the HIV work that The Salvation Army is doing throughout PNG. This first HIV Summit was a great way for the churches to unite and discuss challenges and gaps in HIV care throughout PNG, along with ways forward.
Aside from our work, we are involved at Koki Corps where we started a school of music in February. Each week, we have around 30 participants, who range from six to 30 years old and come from different corps in the city. After three months of learning theory, they started to practise with mouth pieces and are now playing instruments. They are excited and willing to learn. Through this ministry, we hope to nurture future church leaders, teach about worship, and pray that each student develops a deeper relationship with our Lord and Saviour.
We want to thank everyone for their support, and we ask that you pray for:
- Continued protection and wisdom as there have been horrific gender-based violence cases recently. With this comes a need for wisdom for how to counsel the patients, families and our staff who are at the front lines.
- The recently elected leaders of PNG. Please pray that they will be less corrupt and stronger advocates for the well-being of the PNG people.
- For our school of music students and the senior band members who are assisting with the program.
- For our corps officers and their family, as their six-year-old son has recently been hospitalized for Guillain Barre Syndrome and has a long road to recovery in front of him.