Papua New Guinea's first national conference for people living with HIV was opened Sunday in the capital of Port Moresby by Jamie Maxtone-Graham, chair of the Special Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier reports. The three-day event -- which is funded by the Australian government through Sanap Wantaim, Australia's HIV/AIDS program with Papua New Guinea -- is expected to draw about 150 people living with HIV. According to the Post-Courier, about 60% of HIV-positive people in the country have not publically disclosed their HIV status. Participants include 47 representatives from Papua New Guinea's 20 provinces, as well as international representatives from the National Association of People with AIDS in Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands, the Solomon Islands and the Pacific Islands Association Federation in the Cook Islands.
Annie MacPherson, coordinator for Igat Hope, said the event marks the first time people who are living with HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea are being brought together to "develop a way forward on how they can work with each other in the national HIV response." The focus of the conference will be discussions on universal access to treatment, leadership and support for people living with HIV. According to the Post-Courier, more than 1,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country have access to antiretroviral treatment.
Anne Malcom, team leader for Sanap Wantaim, said that Australia recognizes the HIV epidemic in Papua New Guinea and is committed to helping the country increase its long-term response to the virus. Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu said the conference is possible because of the few people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea who publically reveal their status. She added that years ago, there was an even greater fear surrounding HIV in the country. Kidu also urged advocates to include issues such as tuberculosis drug access in their efforts to increase HIV/AIDS drug access in the country (Gerawa, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 11/3).
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