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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Investigating PNG's dark Aids secret
Woman walks past a poster advising condom use to prevent Aids
PNG's government is struggling to get the Aids message across
A woman who says she found that people with HIV/Aids were being buried alive in a remote part of Papua New Guinea has told the BBC about her discovery.

Health worker Margaret Marabe, who has Aids herself, spent five months travelling around villages in the country's southern highlands, educating people there about the disease.

She told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that after she had finished talking to villagers about Aids, some of them told her what they had been doing.

"People were being buried when they were still breathing," she said.

"Also, when they were nearing death, they were being thrown like rubbish near rubbish bins, or near the riverside."

Banished

During her time in the southern highlands, Ms Marabe found out that one of her own relatives, a cousin, had been among those buried alive.

"I did not see it personally myself, but I was told by immediate family members that they were burying other family members who were still breathing," she said.

Map of Papua New Guinea showing Southern Highlands
"I thought, if I get that sick, is that what they're going to do to me?"

Ms Marabe added that people believe that if the virus is buried, they will not become infected.

Meanwhile Steve Marshall, a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who met Ms Marabe in Papua New Guinea, said that he himself had been to the area and believed Ms Murabe's story to be "quite credible."

"I've seen HIV infected people banished to the garden, and banished to the pigpen, to see out their remaining days," he told the BBC World Service.

"There's a widespread ignorance about HIV and Aids in isolated rural communities, and this adds to the risk of HIV infection - and can fuel the acts of violence and stigma and discrimination against people with HIV.

"There are stories about people being buried once they've slipped into a coma, and that the people who bury them are very uneducated because they live in rural areas, and therefore they don't know that the people have stopped breathing."

Witchcraft

He added that the southern highlands were very difficult areas to access.

"The people up there still have very strong beliefs in terms of sorcery and witchcraft, and that is heavily linked to people with HIV," he said.

"If someone comes back to the village and they have HIV/Aids, and they are showing symptoms of looking ill or tired, the people blame this on witchcraft.

"Only a few months ago, four women were buried, standing upright, with iron stakes through their head. That was all linked to witchcraft."


SEE ALSO
PNG Aids victims 'buried alive'
27 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
The Aids audit: A mixed picture
31 Jul 07 |  Health
Tackling PNG's Aids epidemic
28 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Papua New Guinea
14 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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