AIDS "Galloping" Through Papua New Guinea, UN Officials Warn
October 24, 2005
The battle against AIDS in Papua New Guinea and other countries in the Pacific region will be the focus of a meeting that begins Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand. More than 450 researchers, community activists, regional leaders and people living with HIV/AIDS are expected to attend the four-day conference, said the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. "This is the first time an international HIV and AIDS conference has concentrated on the Pacific region," said NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier.
According to Dr. Prasada Rao, Asia-Pacific regional director for UNAIDS, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea could foretell how the disease impacts the region. "It has the characteristics of the sub-Saharan epidemic," Rao said of PNG, where HIV is spread predominantly through heterosexual sex. "And because both men and women have multiple sex partners then it really gallops, when women have multiple sex partners the epidemic really gallops, and that's what is happening in Papua New Guinea," said Rao.
UNAIDS estimates that 40,000 people in PNG's population of 5 million have HIV/AIDS. The epidemic is compounded by underfunded government prevention efforts and police harassment of AIDS workers, said Nii-k Plange, UNAIDS country coordinator in PNG. Polygamous marriages are common in some parts of the country, Plange said.
Plange said it is critical that the government step up HIV/AIDS education and promote the use of condoms. "The government is beginning to be receptive, it's beginning to take responsibility," he said. "We would like it to do more, in terms or more robust advocacy maybe allocating more financial resources."
10.23.05; Mike Corder
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.