HIV programme in Vanuatu seeks ways to improve awareness

Past awareness campaigns on human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, are being blamed for the stigma the virus still carries in Vanuatu.

Six people from Vanuatu are believed to be living with HIV, but only five participants took part in the People Living with HIV Stigma Index Study.

The national programme manager for HIV, Caleb Garae, said the awareness campaigns featured images of gruesome side effects to illustrate the dangers of the virus.

Mr Garae said this added to the discrimination that people living with HIV had to deal with, and still makes it difficult for them to come forward to receive treatment, or be open with their families.

He also said no males took part in the study, which he puts down to Vanuatu's traditional customs.

"Because of the custom value, of males seen to be the dominating [force in] the home and seeing the male being [HIV] positive, the family doesn't look good. That's how the negative way of seeing things."