Working with police towards prevention of STIs and HIV amongst PNG’s most vulnerable groups: female sex workers, men who have sex with men, people living with HIV – poro sapot project, save the children in Papua New Guinea
Issues: PNG is experiencing a growing generalized HIV epidemic with national HIV prevalence among the adult population currently estimated at 1.7% (highest in the Pacific). Corruption and violence permeate PNG’s policing and protective services. Women in sex work, men who have sex with men and PLWHIV often fall victim to police brutality when seeking assistance and protection, increasing their vulnerability and further marginalizing these populations. Although the rights of PLWHIV are protected by national law, sex work and sex between men are both illegal and highly stigmatized.
Description: The Poro Sapot Project is a peer-mediated sexual health improvement and HIV prevention project that works with women in sex work and men who have sex with men to reduce the impacts of STIs, HIV and AIDS. Trainings, sensitizations and review meetings are conducted with officers on a range of topics including: HIV and AIDS, STIs, human rights, national law, gender and violence, stigma and discrimination and other issues facing vulnerable populations. In a pilot intervention in January 2007, PSP staff and volunteers conducted a 4-day sensitization workshop for over 100 new recruits at PNG’s national police college. That year, PSP also began facilitating gender violence workshops for police, resourced by the national Law and Justice Sector Programme.
Lessons learned: NGO collaboration with police has worked. Sensitisation is more effective when understood and supported by the police hierarchy, and when it involves members of vulnerable populations willing to testify about their experiences. Facilitation of an enabling environment for target groups complements the project’s broader STI and HIV prevention activities. Early reports indicate that police interactions with project target groups have improved in those communities where police sensitization has taken place.
Next steps: PSP must: continue to work in collaboration with police to train and sensitise new and existing officers on an ongoing basis.
-Abstract available at link below-