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Peer counsellor, Iru Tofinga, delivers a COVID-19 education session using newly-developed educational flipchart.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TB program in Daru, Western Province, Papua New Guinea, harnessed expertise through partners such as Burnet Institute, to provide integrated support for TB and COVID-19 in infection control, laboratory testing, contact tracing, clinical training, system monitoring and community engagement.

Supporting COVID-19 public health communication via community engagement in Daru was immediately identified as a high priority, as people were initially fearful and confused when they heard of COVID-19.  Burnet’s TB education and counselling team, which includes peer counsellors (TB survivors), developed COVID-19 education tools and guidelines for staff and commenced the delivery of COVID-19 education with TB patients, their families and the community. The team also established a Facebook page to counter misinformation. 

Peer counsellor, Iru, recalls referring to the guidelines when providing COVID-19 education to people receiving treatment for TB. One patient, Bari*, was frightened about COVID-19 due to messages he had heard on the radio about its origins and transmission. Bari had several education sessions with Iru and asked many questions. At times Iru felt she was being tested to see if she was giving the correct information and was thankful to have guidelines to refer to when responding. Bari appreciated being able to discuss COVID-19 with someone with knowledge about the disease as other people had dismissed his fears.

 

Burnet Institute’s Western Province TB Program receives support from the Australian Government through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership, Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and Medical Research Future Fund.

 

*Names have been altered for publication.