Papua New-Guinea / Violence: Drunks raping women at HIV/AIDS refuge in Papua New Guinea western highlands

02 Sep, 2009
By: Ilya Gridneff

Drunken rapists are attacking women at an HIV/AIDS refuge in Papua New Guinea in "suicide" attacks, an AIDS counselling authority says.

Reports published in PNG's Post Courier newspaper have highlighted a spate of abuses, intimidation and rapes of women known to be infected with HIV/AIDS in Mt Hagen, in Western Highlands Province.

A donated house in the town has become a refuge for 13 women using antiretroviral drugs to combat HIV/AIDS, but the women say they are constantly attacked by drunks and local men.

An unnamed woman, who was recently raped by a schoolboy, told the Post Courier that men were forcing their way into the refuge to rape regardless of the women's illness.

"We are totally confused why they keep coming here, looking for us despite our status," she said. "(They are) totally ignorant men searching for hell. "We are victims, feeding on antiretroviral drugs. We have no strength to defend such attacks," the woman said.

Reverend Apollos Yimbak, care and counselling coordinator for PNG's National AIDS Council Secretariat, confirmed the woman's story."Last Friday a grade 11 student from a Mt Hagen school went to the residence, broke in and raped a woman," he told AAP.

"The woman told him she had AIDS and to wear a condom, but he refused," he said."It's a disturbing story, it's a suicide, but the positive side is that the woman tried to offer a safe alternative, to negotiate."Sadly he refused, which highlights how people behave when under the influence," he said.

Reverend Yimbak said women at the refuge said it was not the first rape incident."This report has brought out more reports of this sort of behaviour, and we are now going about speaking with community leaders to get the message out and prevent this sort of situation," he said.

Australia has promised $100 million to help PNG battle AIDS under a five-year program that began in January 2007. It's estimated two per cent of PNG's population is infected with HIV/AIDS.