Tributes to only openly HIV positive Samoan
People in Samoa are paying tribute to Peati Iupeli, a woman they credit with educating the nation on HIV/AIDS awareness, and changing the way people view those living with HIV. Peati Iupeli has died at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole national hospital, after being admitted last Wednesday on complications of a stomach pain.
People in Samoa are paying tribute to Peati Iupeli, a woman they credit with educating the nation on HIV/AIDS awareness, and changing the way people view those living with HIV.
Peati Iupeli has died at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole national hospital, after being admitted last Wednesday on complications of a stomach pain.
She was the only person in Samoa to publicly declare her HIV status.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
The Samoa Red Cross says the impact HIV awareness campaigner, Peati Iupeli, has had on the nation cannot be matched. Its president, Va'asilifiti Moelagi Jackson, says Mrs Iupeli wanted to make sure no one else in Samoa suffered the way she did.
VA'ASILIFITI MOELAGI JACKSON: If I were the leader of this country I would have given her an award. Because I don't think anybody can match what she has done. Number one, there is no more further discrimination that was going on here, everyone knows about HIV and they are all aware, because of her work.
Peati Iupeli got the virus from her husband who was a national rugby player, and who had died from AIDS, as well as their son. Our correspondent, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says when the news of AIDS and HIV first reached Samoa, people had a very different mindset about the disease. He says when Peati publicly spoke about having HIV, and talked about the stigma of it, and how she lost her job because of it, her story touched the hearts of people in Samoa.
AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: Because she came out, spoke out strongly as a woman and a mother, trying to make people aware, at the same time teach our people, and the whole world, about a person being infected, and then how we should approach them and accept them into society, especially in the Samoan family.
Andrew Peteru is formerly with the Department of Health in Samoa, and had first met Peati Iupeli in 1998. He says she told him that she didn't want to become just another statistic, and she wanted to understand AIDS before it took her life.
ANDREW PETERU: Back then, there were no ARVs, in fact it was a period when the virus was winning the battle against science. She then requested that we do an educational session for her, we got her to go to Nadi for the Pacific AIDS Conference a few months later, and there she met Maire Bopp DuPont from French Polynesia. She declared her HIV status at that conference and since then she never looked back.
He says she has been the face of HIV/AIDS in Samoa for more than 15 years.
ANDREW PETERU: As the first person to declare her HIV/AIDS status publicly, and having visiting all the areas of Samoa with a number of ministries and NGOs, she broke many barriers relating to stigma and discrimination, and as a result, much of the fear and prejudice associated with HIV has ceased to exist here.
Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says she had a big impact on the way the media reported on HIV, because she never hid away from stories.
AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: Look back at all these stories about her out in the media, and her telling the media, not shy away from the media and the public, it really tells the story of a true person wanting her own people to learn from her, and to be educated from her case.
He says International AIDS Foundation organisations also used her as a role model to spread the word about the HIV/AIDS.
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