This week, tears of joy were shed by Mrs. Irene Malachi who was first announced the first ever HIV/AIDS victim in the small island country of Vanuatu in 2002 when she was presented an award by the Peace Corps Country Director, Mr. Edwin Stice.
Ever since the announcement of her as an AIDS victim, Irene has worked hard despite the many challenges of stigmatization and negative approaches she was confronted with in the society. The award received from Peace Crops in 2010 was only the second award she has ever received since 2002.
Irene’s name was submitted by the local Peace Corps Post in Vanuatu to Peace Corps headquarters in DC because of the great contributions and advocacy work that Irene has done and involved in for her country both locally and internationally on the awareness of HIV/AIDS. She has been doing advocacy work for 8 years throughout local communities, and despite the many challenges she faced from people when it was made official she has HIV/AIDS she stood her ground, and took on the challenge to educate people on what the disease is.
At first, people were afraid to come close to her, shake her hand, story with her or befriend her. But through her awareness talks, she was able to get people to understand what the disease really is and the ways in which it can be passed from one person to another. It was only then that people began to understand and accept her. More and more local communities in the country are requesting Irene to go out and talk to the community sharing her personal testimony, and she is now very well respected; people talk to her, sit with her, eat with her and befriend her more than ever before.
The award received this week from Peace Corps was in recognition of her tireless devotion and commitment to educating her people about HIV/AIDS.
Mrs. Malachi is now seen as a true hero of HIV/AIDs in Vanuatu.