In the scenic landscape of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, a story of resilience and transformation unfolds to serve as a testament to the power of determination, education, and community support.
At the age of 32, Maria (not her real name) has emerged from a challenging past to become an inspiring beacon of hope, all while contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS and STIs.
But for years, she navigated a world where men paid her for intimate encounters and endured a cycle that seemed impossible to break free from.
“I used to hang out with truck drivers and drink with ladies everywhere. Men pay prior to having sex with me. I have my rate and when they meet my rate, I allow them to do the business”, says Maria.
Hanging out with truck drivers and indulging in excessive drinking became her coping mechanisms, leading her down a path that seemed bleak.
Her early life was troubled with hardships. Growing up, Maria faced neglect from her parents when she sought support for her education and daily needs. Left without a safety net, she found herself engaging in risky behaviors, including becoming involved in sex work alongside her peers during her teenage years.
The turning point came when Maria encountered the ADRA team while conducting an awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS and STIs in her community. This pivotal moment triggered a transformation within her. Recognising the seriousness of her situation and the potential consequences of her actions, Maria decided to seize the opportunity for change. She bravely left behind her former life, bidding farewell to her old habits and embracing a new purpose.
Maria’s commitment and determination did not go unnoticed. The ADRA team saw her potential and resilience, offering her a chance to become a peer worker.
ADRA PNG is a sub-recipient and a valued implementing partner under World Vision PNG managed Global Fund TBHIV program.
“This opportunity allowed me to rebuild my life and help others who were dealing with similar challenges”, says Lina.
She began counseling and supporting individuals who, like her, had once walked down a risky path. The impact of Maria’s transformation extended beyond her personal growth.
“The fortnightly incentives I receive help me sustain myself, pay my rentals, and provide for my younger brother, who is pursuing his education, and my sister, who has a market stall’, she adds.
As we reflect on Maria’s journey, her story links with the broader context of Papua New Guinea's battle against HIV/AIDS and STIs. The country has made significant strides in recent years, with an increasing number of individuals gaining access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
Current data reveals that a growing proportion of the population is benefiting from ART, experiencing improved health and enhanced quality of life.
Maria’s journey embodies the transformative power of education, awareness, and community support. Her decision to break free from a cycle of hardship and engage in meaningful work has not only strengthened her own life but has also contributed to the well-being of countless others.
She stands as a living testament to the fact that change is possible, no matter how challenging the circumstances may be.
Maria’s story radiates as a beacon of hope, inspiring those who face adversity to embark on their own path of transformation.
Her story is a reminder that with determination, education, and unwavering community support, individuals can overcome even the most depressing challenges and emerge as powerful agents of change.