Papua New Guinea Faces AIDS Epidemic
May 17, 2002
Papua New Guinea is on the verge of an AIDS epidemic that could wipe out 40 percent of the adult population within 20 years, according to an Australian report. The report by the Australian government's aid agency AusAid says as many as 15,000 people out of a population of 4.6 million are HIV-positive. AIDS-related diseases are the major cause of death at the general hospital in the capital Port Moresby and the number of infections is rising by up to 30 percent every year, says the report.
The consequences for the most heavily populated Pacific nation could be crippling. Without sufficiently qualified workers the government might not be able to function -- not to mention the huge pressure the looming epidemic could have on health services.
The government in Port Moresby now has a National Plan for HIV Prevention. It aims to provide education, counseling and improved medical care as well as a more efficient way of tracking the spread of the virus. Australia, Papua New Guinea's former colonial ruler, is spending US $30 million as part of a five year HIV/AIDS program. The funds will help build and equip clinics to treat STDs across the country. The country has the highest rate of STDs in the region.
HIV in Papua New Guinea is largely a heterosexual problem. There is a high incidence of unprotected sex and one in every six prostitutes is HIV-positive. Some commentators have blamed the spread of infection on the breakdown of traditional village life.
05.14.02; Phil Mercer
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.