The deadly disease of HIV AIDS has affected the South Pacific region over the past decade. It spreads like a bush fire due to many reasons. The first and the important one is of course the lack of knowledge about the sickness. Secondly the lack of knowledge is the result of high illiteracy rate in the South Pacific and especially among the women and children. The illiteracy rate compounds the progress of education of the people on the sickness. In Papua New Guinea where the illiteracy rate is 83% percent (UNICEF 2009 figures) saw a rapid growth in the spread of the virus. About two percent of the 6.13 million of the nation's population are infected with the HIV since the first diagnosed case 1989. Many causes are identified include promiscuous sex and sexual activities like night clubbing, prostitution, polygamous marriages, drug and alcohol abuses etc. However, most frustrating setback in the government and NGOs endeavour to curb the spread of the HIV is illiteracy.
Because of illiteracy as the major obstacle, concerned groups find it very hard to educate the general populace on the facts of HIV AIDS. Out of this lack of knowledge many people develop what we call myths about HIV AIDS. These spread fear that do more harm than good. It stigmatizes, suppress and abuse rights of the infected people as well as spread the virus. For infected people instead living longer than they die quickly because of neglect, care and love. The deceased from HIV AIDS leave behind family members who now cause enormous social problem for what was a peaceful family and clan knitted unit community transformed into a segregated, dismantled and disoriented society.
Some these myths of HIV AIDS are:
1. HIV AIDS are spread by sorcerers. Family members of HIV victims accuse people of being sorcerers and suck out all the good blood and infect the blood with the disease. Instead of caring and loving a victim, resource, time and effort are wasted on talking about a belief that cannot be scientifically or medically proven and diagnosed. Tribal fights erupted, home destroyed and innocent people killed. HIV AIDS created a new problem because of the lack of the basic knowledge of the sickness.
2. Alcohol can destroyed infected white blood cells. Many young men and women think that once infected with a HIV, one can destroy the infected blood cells by drinking a lot of strong drinks. They think that drinking strong /Alcoholic Beverages">alcoholic beverages like spirits can destroy the infected cells. Because of severe economic conditions of the country, the only way to get cheap spirits is by home manufacture. "Steam'' is the name given to home brewed spirits by a simple process of fermentation, heating and distillation. Instead of safe sex, controlled and behaved social activity, alcohol is the nearly the most single causing factor to the rapid increase of the HIV AIDS. Many young people do not think properly in matters relating to sex when under the influence of alcohol.
3. One act of sexual intercourse with any one person cannot infect a person is another myth. Many believe a single sexual encounter is not enough to spread a virus from an infected person to another. They believe for a virus to spread or pass from one person to another is only possible through many sexual acts. It thought that it is alright for a person to just have a sex once with person at a time as long as you do not repeat with the same person again. You can imagine how the virus is likely to spread like bush fire with this myth.
4. Use Condon prevents sexual pleasure. Many people believe condoms prevent them from fully enjoying sexual pleasure. Therefore, many choose to have unprotected sex as long as it is a one act with the person. It is proven by studies done in PNG that older men force young girls to have unprotected sex so that the older men get sexual pleasure. The old men induce these young girls into having unprotected sex with cash incentives. In the difficult economic times, it make so difficult to resist such attraction.
5. Sex is culturally known as virginal penetration. Whatever other forms of sex those introduced to give alternatives for people to choose to have if they do not have a condom or are not sure of the HIV AIDS status of their partner is not seen as real sex. Oral sex and masturbation are not defined as sexual act by Papua New Guineans and many cultures of the South Pacific. If a man pays for a sex he must get it through virginal penetration. This prevents people from enjoying sexual sensuality in variety of forms like oral sex to avoid contracting HIV AIDS.
These and other myths cause set back in the work of containing the disease. Education is the most important social tool to use to control the spread of the virus. Until we reach 50 % literacy rate in Papua New Guinea, we have a big problem on hand.