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Anglican Church at forefront of addressing sexual health problems in PNG

June 17, 2016

This is Josepha Tametalong, the Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea’s Begaberi Clinic in Port Moresby. She began working for the clinic around 4 years ago, when she came to Port Moresby from Oro Bay. Currently Begaberi Clinic has 2000 people on their books, and they see average of 50-60 patients per day. Half of the 2000 are on treatment for HIV. There are 10 staff members employed, including 5 clinicians, 1 hygienist, 1 data clerk, and 1 receptionist. There is also a two-person psychosocial unit led by Mary Wapu.

The clinic has built a solid reputation as a high quality service, amongst clients and local authorities. It was constructed as part of funding awarded to ABM from the PNG-Australia Sexual Health Improvement Program (PASHIP), an Australian government-funded, five-year initiative. The overarching goal of that program was to reduce the rate of sexually transmitted infection by improving access to sexual healthcare services.

The clinic was designed by Mother Sue Ramsden, wife of the former Bishop of Port Moresby, Bishop Peter Ramsden. It was deliberately designed to be visually similar to the nearby Anglican chapel of the Good Shepherd, since both are visible signs of the love and presence of God in that part of Port Moresby.  Josepha has noted that local people often comment that they don’t know if Begaberi is a clinic or a church when they first see it. Located in the Anglican compound in Waigani district, it is the 2nd largest clinic in PNG’s National Capital District that provides this type of service.

There is a supportive atmosphere at Begaberi, where people feel they are not judged or stigmatised. They frequently comment about how welcomed they felt when first arriving, and how the place is like a home. This has led to many more patients visiting the clinic, as the news travels by word of mouth. They come from districts all over Port Moresby, some days so many that they need to be turned away. Begaberi can treat anyone, and there are even four Australians on their books.

Begaberi Clinic is one of two centres established through the PASHIP program to test for and treat Sexually Transmitted Disease. The other is St Margaret’s Hospital in Oro Bay, near Popondetta. Both centres have a reputation for high quality services and discretion, and are seeing increasing success in encouraging male spouses to attend for testing and treatment. There is a strong sense of ownership of the facilities by the local communities, and strong referral networks with other healthcare providers in the area.

Josepha wished to express her thanks to the staff of ABM, who worked so hard on the project. ABM would also like to thank Josepha and her team, and Anglicare PNG, the social service arm of the Anglican Church of PNG which is working to continue to provide this service. It is making an incredible difference in the lives of so many people, and contributing to reducing the rates of infection and disease in the wider community of PNG.