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In the urban settlements, the so-called “line-ups” or gang rapes are where some boys get their first sexual experience. Ruby Kenny, the coordinator of the Special Youth Project agrees.
“We’re trying to focus a lot on gang leaders.” She also adds that the “line-ups” are frequent and will spread HIV/AIDS rapidly.
Twenty-three-year-old Orange Samilo is wheezing and beads of perspiration drip down her forehead as she delivers an animated message in sweltering heat and humidity.
She stands in front of a crowd of about 30 young men, women and youth gathered at a market place in Burns Peak, a poor settlement on the outskirts of the capital Port Moresby, where unemployment and violent crime are high.
Girls with little education are drawn into sex work for survival.
Traditional cultural practices too contribute to this rapid spread.
She also says they need more sensitization workshops especially for youth leaders to increase their skills, and she would like to see the setting up of Youth Friendly Health Services, where young people can get specialized attention for sexual health matters, including HIV/AIDS and STIs, without having to go to the hospital, which can sometimes be intimidating for young people. She has recently started to take anti-retroviral drugs, which are free, but presently only available at the central hospital in the capital and in the other major city of Lae.Asked whether she feels nervous about talking to the gang leaders, Kenny says she has learnt to communicate with them. You shouldn’t put yourself up above them.” The project works closely with 68 youth groups, which have been set up in the sprawling settlements around the city, and she says most of the gang leaders now know her and do not threaten her. Her counsellor had told her that it would be good to get together with other people living with HIV in order to share ideas and problems. “I was shocked to find that there were only two people, a husband and wife.” Samilo and the married couple now work together, closely with the Special Youth Project, educating the youth about HIV/AIDS.UNICEF assistance also includes educating young people in school on HIV/AIDS, particularly supporting the training of teachers to integrate HIV/AIDS education in their normal teaching.She was rescued by Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz from a remote village near Sirunki in the Enga province of the country late last week.Mr Lutz told ABC News: 'It's the first time that I've had to deal with anything with a young child like this and it's always confronting.'The victim is thought to be the daughter of Kepari Leniata, whose savage murder in 2013 made headlines around the world.