Arthur Palmer - Aboriginal, Oceanic & Tribal Art

Monday, July 27, 2009

Papua New Guinea ARTIFACTS & AIDS - HIV in PNG

A Grave Exchange
By Arthur Beau Palmer (Artefact Gallery) July 2009 (see foot notes)
Peter Allan Head, an Australian expat, ran an artifact business in PNG between 1980 and 1986. He returned to Australia, from PNG, HIV positive in April or May 1986. Mr. Head died of AIDS in Sept, 1986.

Tessie Soi, co-ordinator of social work at Port Moresby General Hospital, saw PNG's first official case of AIDS in 1987. Back then, she was unable to help.

Papua New Guinea now has one of the highest rates of HIV in the Asia-Pacific Region, and is the fourth country in the region to be classified as having a generalized HIV epidemic.

The first Australian case of AIDS was diagnosed at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in 1982. In NSW, the incidence of new cases of HIV infection peaked in the mid-1980s with 1,636 diagnoses reported in 1987, and has steadily fallen to 347 cases in 2001.

Peter Head most probably contracted HIV during a visit back to Australia, USA or Africa pre 1985.
He is unlikely to be the sole source of the introduction of HIV into PNG; however the date of his infection is very early & may be seminal, in the history of PNG AIDS.

Peter Head’s Artifact retail outlet Pacific Art Pty Ltd P.O.Box 1538, Boroko 1980s. Papua New Guinea
The irresistable conclusion is that the artifact trade has inadvertantly been a significent contributing factor to the PNG present AIDS HIV disaster. It is uncertain if other European expat artifact dealers & collectors from overseas have also played a role in bringing & spreading AIDS to New Guinea?

Twenty Two years after Peter Head’s AIDS death, six hetrosexual Australian businessmen all came back to Cairns, in October 2008, from a conference in Port Moresby HIV positive after sleeping with female prostitues.

Fears PNG AIDS epidemic worsening
By Papua New Guinea correspondent Liam Fox

New statistics show the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea could be getting much worse. It has been estimated that around 2 per cent of adult Papua New Guineans or around 64,000 people, are HIV positive.

But statistics coming out of testing centres in the Western Highlands indicate the prevalence could be much worse.

The province's HIV/AIDS response coordinator Joshua Meninga says on average 17 per cent of people who have been tested recently are returning positive results.

"Some places like Taninga you're looking at 24 per cent," he said.

Mr Meninga says the figures could be the result of more people coming forward to be tested. But he thinks they also indicate more than 2 per cent of adults are now infected.

An epidemic now exported back to it’s origin?

How catastrophic the PNG AIDS & Hep C situation will become is ultimitaly in the hands of out side powers. PNG resources do not appear to be coping. Without effective Political will & Medical intervention this epidemic has the capacity to produce a population collapse so drastic that New Guinea will cease to function as a Nation. By 2050 PNG may cease to be a Melaneasian country. Rich in Natural resources already the target of rapicious exploitation the vacuum will be filled by close SE Asian neighbours? – Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia? Indonesian administration & resultant trans migration from Java Sumatra would forever extinguish the Papua of New Guinea before the end of the 21st Century?

The International PNG Artifact Trade

There are many European, US & Australian Auction Houses, dealers & collectors worldwide which have made a very successful living over the past four decades from collecting, exporting & selling New Guinea material culture National treasures & Museum quality ethnographic works of art.

To gain some appreciation of the current sophisication of the world trade in PNG artifacts the following sites are informative:

The above US site sells Museum quality old PNG Ethnographic with prices displayed & has a very good links page to many other artefact dealers’ world wide.
This site donates the keystone art object used for fund raising for the very helpful Village Relief Foundation, , which donates money and medical supplies directly to remote villages in Papua New Guinea.

Michael Hamson makes the point that there are huge industries making millions and millions of dollars in Papua New Guinea--the mining companies, the timber companies, the oil and gas companies, etc. These huge multinationals hire thousands of employees and often have them shifting around the country to various job sites. And it is at these job sites that prostitution flourishes. It is here that men are both away from their families and have dispensable income to afford prostitution. So the tiny artefact trade is hardly an issue for AIDS in Papua New Guinea.
This raises the issue of revenue royalties & tax income for PNG directly from these industries. The international ethnographic artefact trade at present makes no such contribution. The direct return to the villages in proportion to auction house sale values is indeed tiny.

The Australian site below claims to be the finest tribal art gallery in the Asia Pacific. Prices on request?

Now may be timely for the artifact community to reinvest a portion of this gain to directly assist PNG’s HIV AIDS programme.

Public & Private institutions which have also reaped the benefits of this trade since colonisation are in an excellent position to contribute? Auction Houses in London, Paris, New York , San Francisco & Sydney have made millions of dollars at 20% commission & 20% fall of hammer. A fraction of this profit will fund vital medical assistance to New Guinea at this critical time. US auction houses have a recent history of waive seller commissions to contribute to worthy causes.

Papuan piece sets record

Suggestions on how to best achieve such a benevolent & philanthropic outcome should be sourced by advice from the artifacts peak bodies i.e. OAS Syd Aust, San Francisco Tribal U.S.A. & various Museums/Art Galleries & artifact show/Expo groups??

At this stage the support programme with the best efficacy appears to be conducted through the Australian Government.

WHO estimates that two per cent of PNG’s population is HIV POSITIVE?

…which means we have 100,000 people living with HIV. Our judgement
is that, given the current level of infection and the rate of increase,
it is possible that the number of infections could reach one million in
10-15 years unless decisive action is taken (Renault, 2004).

Impact of HIV/AIDS

This growing HIV/AIDS epidemic will impact on the future of PNG, including reduced life expectancy, workforce depletion, increased health expenditure and reduced economic growth.

An AusAID-commissioned report* concluded that unless interventions to address the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS in PNG are scaled up, by 2025:

  • Over 500,000 people will be living with HIV/AIDS
  • 117,000 children will have lost their mothers to AIDS
  • The workforce will have declined by 12.5%
  • GDP will be 1.3% less than predicted
  • 70% of all hospital beds will be needed for AIDS patients.
* See Impacts of HIV/AIDS 2005 - 2025 in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor - Final Report (2006) See also Potential Economic Impacts of an HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Papua New Guinea for more information on the economic impacts of HIV/AIDS in PNG.
HIV and AIDS infection is spreading in PNG

Paul Toohey | February 07, 2009 THE AUSTRALIAN
Fear of the truth and of stigmatisation, along with polygamy, promiscuity and an entrenched refusal by men to adopt safe-sex habits, has allowed HIV and AIDS to run unchecked in Papua New Guinea, our closest neighbour. It is estimated that HIV and AIDS infection now affects more than 2 per cent of the population, though that will explode to 5 per cent by 2012.

HIV and AIDS is a generalised, heterosexual epidemic that will soon consume 70 per cent of PNG's health resources. Already, half of Australia's annual $358 million in aid goes on HIV and AIDS programs.
Tessie Soi, co-ordinator of social work at Port Moresby General Hospital, saw PNG's first official case of AIDS in 1987. Back then, she was unable to help.

"I sent that man home to his village to die," she says. She became the founder of Friends Foundation, a non-government organisation that helps people living with HIV and AIDS.
Soi advises on the prevention of mother-to-child infection, though she prefers to say parent-to-child, to lessen the blame PNG women tend to cop for spreading the virus.

In 2004, she made a terrible discovery. She was arranging for the burial of eight AIDS patients whose bodies were lying unclaimed in the hospital morgue, having been rejected by relatives.
"They pulled open this drawer and there were all these little bundles in the same drawer as this woman we were going to bury," she says. "I thought they were body parts. After we put the woman in her coffin I asked, 'What are those bundles?' The attendant said they were babies who had not been claimed. There were 39 of them in the morgue."

Until then, adults and babies had been buried in mass graves. Soi has tried to change that, arranging -- with the help of private donors -- for baby coffins and single-grave burials.

Soi buries between 70 to 90 unclaimed babies every year, most of them, she believes, dead from HIV-related illnesses. In 2007, almost 4000 children were orphaned by HIV and AIDS.

In a country where HIV and AIDS sufferers have been buried alive, burned to death or locked in shacks with food slid under the door.....

Evaluation of the PNG National HIV/AIDS Support Project

The first case of HIV was reported in Papua New Guinea in 1987. Papua New Guinea now has one of the highest rates of HIV in the Asia-Pacific Region, and is the fourth country in the region to be classified as having a generalized HIV epidemic.

This report examines the past 5-year program of Australian support for the PNG response to HIV/AIDS through the National HIV/AIDS Support Project.

JULY 2009 Notes:
The Palmer family has a history of direct association with Papua New Guinea Torres Strait which goes back five (5) generations to the 1870s.

Hon Sir Arthur H Palmer KCMG Premier 1870-73 & Govenor Queensland 1883-1896. Annexture New Guinea & Formation of British New Guinea Armed constabulary 1890 etc. (see Sir William MacGregor /Sir A H Palmer correspondance 1880s)

Sqd/Ldr BMH Palmer DFC CO 5Sq RAAF Bougainville Solomons & Fighter Command Horn Is. Torres Strait & Meraurke Dutch New Guinea (1942-45).

The author, Arthur Beau Palmer, first went to Papua New Guinea in 1968 & has field collected since then. He re catalouged the MacGregor collection Queensland Museum 1975-77, as assistant to the Curator of Anthropology & Archeaology, for repatriation post PNG Independance. In the 1980s he directed a large scale environmental health programme with Cape York Torres Strait T.O’s.

Arthur B. Palmer AD Fine Arts (Qld) MRQAS
Approved to value the following classes for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Programme:
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander material culture and contemporary art, Arnhem Land barks (19thC to present), Hermannsburg watercolours (1930s to present), Pacific, African, Asian, American material culture, Australian Early and Modern Fine Art, International Aviation Art, Trench Art WWI & WWII.

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