In 2004, Cathy gave birth to her second child. During that time, she became very ill.
Becoming Ill and Lacking Hope
At the time I became ill, my late husband, who was a doctor, treated me at home. He even helped me deliver our daughter at home.
They did not do blood tests for pregnant mothers at the clinics or hospital, so I didn’t know what was happening to me. My health continued to deteriorate drastically.
My husband was a womaniser, heavy alcohol drinker, and was often out clubbing.
My family took me to see different so-called “sorcerers” from three different provinces of Papua New Guinea to find out the cause of my illness.
They spent a lot of money on this exercise to identify the cause of my illness. However, it was unsuccessful. The “herbal drinks” offered to me did nothing to help me.
In 2006, my sister worked with HOPE worldwide PNG as a field support officer and she gave me a pamphlet to read.
It was about STIs and HIV. My sister asked me if I was interested in being an outreach worker to reach clients in communities and refer them to the HOPE Clinic for HIV Testing. I said I was interested.
She educated me on STIs and HIV, prevention, symptoms, and the importance of getting tested, and staying on the treatments.
Some symptoms I had were signs of later stages of living with the HIV virus. I went to HOPE 9-Mile Clinic and got tested for HIV and found out I was positive. They put me on treatment right away.
I was only 22 years old.
I met a transgendered person who was working at HOPE worldwide PNG as a peer outreach worker.
They introduced me to a national community-based organisation for People Living with HIV (PLHIV), where I could seek support. I met others like me, young and old, and they encouraged me to be strong and maintain a positive mindset.
In 2007, I volunteered with HOPE worldwide PNG as an outreach worker. Later in 2008, HOPE asked me to work as a counsellor at the HOPE 9 Mile Clinic.
Although I did not receive any counselling training, I used my life story as a testimony to encourage those who were like me. HOPE motivated me to tell my story. I helped a lot of young people, boys and girls, and men and women. Many people stayed on treatment because I helped them.
I see my life as a ministry to help those affected and infected with HIV.
In 2008, a HOPE worldwide developed a national toolkit for CoPCT (Continuum of Prevention to Care and Treatment) and FHI 360. HOPE worldwide PNG trialled it nationwide, and I was the pioneer counsellor to be involved in this roll-out.
How Jesus Gave Hope
I reflected upon Jesus' life on earth, and it was convicting for me. He helped the blind, the lame, prostitutes, people from diverse backgrounds. Where there was darkness, Jesus came to show the way.
That’s how I view my journey. I could have died a long time ago, but Jesus sustained my life and gave me hope through HOPE worldwide.
My first husband died from the virus, but God kept me alive. He blessed me with my current husband who is HIV negative and God also blessed us with 2 children who are also HIV negative. All three children are HIV negative.
Although I faced stigma and discrimination from my family members and had to leave home for five years, God used this time to strengthen me and showed me miraculous wonders through building my own family and finding a place of acceptance and growth at HOPE worldwide.
As a result, I’m now an experienced and certified adherence counsellor. I’ve trained new health care workers and provided pre-ART HIV care information to newly diagnosed clients. They learn the importance of staying on treatment and following up; I provide counselling to them, even to the gender-based violence (GBV) clients. I also conduct viral load tests.
I’m now involved in putting together and piloting the Trainers of Trainees (ToT) counselling toolkit, including mental health for PLHIVs in the country.
Giving Hope to Others
When I reflected upon my own life, I thought I was hopeless, useless, and I suffered from depression and mental health issues. My family was cruel towards me. BUT HOPE worldwide GAVE ME HOPE. I truly understood the meaning of the word HOPE.
I was 22 years old when I first tested positive at HOPE 9 Mile Clinic. Now I’m 38 years old with 3 HIV-negative children. I’m a well-respected counsellor in the country in the HIV space and I continue to provide mentorship to young health care workers.
Truly HOPE is life-saving and life-changing! HOPEww sustained my generation through my three children and for that, I’m eternally grateful to God for giving me HOPE and a FUTURE!
How You Can Give Hope
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