Officials investigate claims of woman who spent time raising awareness in area
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea Officials in Papua New Guinea are investigating claims by an HIV-positive woman that people with AIDS were buried alive by their relatives when they became too sick to care for, an official said Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Margaret Marabe, a local activist who reportedly spent five months working to raise awareness about the disease in the South Pacific nation’s remote Southern Highlands province, said she had seen AIDS patients buried alive.
“I saw three people with my own eyes,” Marabe told the Post Courier in Papua New Guinea for its Monday, Aug. 27 edition. “When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them.”
The acting director of Papua New Guinea’s National AIDS Council, Romanus Pakure, said police and health workers were being sent to the Southern Highlands to investigate the claims.
However, he questioned why Marabe had not approached the police before taking her story to the media.
“The lady may be a loose cannon, we are not happy it’s come out like this,” he said.
Pakure conceded that the stigma against people with HIV was very strong in the countryside, where education about the disease is scarce.
Similar claims of AIDS killings had been made in the past, he said, but none have ever verified.
“There were reports maybe five to 10 years ago of people being buried alive. There were also reports of people being thrown in the river or burnt alive,” he said.
The council and other health agencies were moving ahead with programs to raise knowledge about HIV/AIDS and teach families how to care for people with the disease, Pakure said.
Marabe could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Anne McPherson, a spokeswoman for the organization where Marabe works as a volunteer, said she had not heard of Marabe’s claims before they appeared in the local newspaper.
Papua New Guinea, which shares an island north of Australia with Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province, is among the hardest-hit countries in the Asia-Pacific region when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
Officials have estimated that the adult per capita infection rate lies between 1.28 percent and 2 percent.
They have warned that some isolated pockets of the country face HIV rates as high as 30 percent.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2007