Keeping Positive in Papua

Keeping Positive in Papua

Caritasnews magazine
Jane Woolford
Summer 2008

In 2005, Sophia Wawon was living with the news that she was HIV positive. Fortunately she was put in touch with the Yasanto program and was able to quickly learn how to ensure her own good health. Sophia quickly gained a reputation for caring for other people around her who were also living with HIV / AIDS and took on the role of volunteer leader of one of the support groups.

Leo Mahuze, the Yasanto Director recognised Sophia's special abilities and asked her to become an official member of the Yasanto staff. Now 21, Sophia is the leader of the Merauke support group. She visits communities to assist the Yasanto team in raising awareness about HIV / AIDS and has the unique position of being able to share her personal story with people.

"I talk about my own experiences and what I must face in my life," Sophia said. "Sometimes when I talk about my own story I can see from the appearance of people that they are fearful of me and they want to stay away. There are some who feel frightened. But these attitudes and discrimination do not put me down."

"I come back from the communities to the Yasanto office and talk about it to the staff here. Then I continue to go back to the communities. I need to continue. We have to bring understanding to people so they know about HIV / AIDS," Sophia said.

Sophia leads the support group in a variety of activities. They make jewellery, sewing, handicrafts and flower arrangements which are sold to assist the group. Some of the group members live in at the Care Centre where they keep a garden and produce their own vegetables.

"It is important to keep busy and the activities give everyone something to focus on. I feel strong about the future. I am feeling healthy and the medicine helps me keep well. I hope for a long life and to continue working together with the others on our team," said Sophia.