Confronting the AIDS Epidemic in the Pacific
November 10, 2008
Experts say greater cooperation among Papua New Guinea authorities and international and non-governmental entities will be critical to fighting HIV/AIDS there. PNG accounts for 80 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in the Pacific Islands region, with new diagnoses doubling between 2002 and 2006. The government did not meet its 2004-2008 target of reducing estimated HIV prevalence to below 1 percent, and over half a million of its 6 million people could be infected by 2025.
"One problem is the number of sexual partners that people have in PNG," said Dr. Trevor Cullen, professor of communications at Australia's Edith Cowan University. "There is some similarity here with a number of southern African countries where HIV infection rates are as high as 15 percent."
About 40 percent of PNG's population live on less than $1 a day, and twice as many women ages 15-29 are infected than same-age male peers. Extramarital sex by husbands is believed to be driving infections among married women.
"There still exist traditional taboos that prevent an open discussion of sexual matters," Cullen said. Church and government officials have also been reticent rather than openly discussing HIV's sexual spread, experts say.
"Either through ignorance of the impending reality or fear of negative publicity, [Pacific governments] were unable to galvanize public support," said Cullen. UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and NGOs have had "to do their best" for a long time, he added.
PNG schools recently began including HIV/AIDS education in their curricula, and Australia's Agency for International Development has identified greater PNG government coordination on HIV/AIDS as a top development priority. In addition, the Pan Commonwealth Civil Society met last month in the Cook Islands to encourage public-NGO working partnerships in the region to fight HIV/AIDS.
Epoch Times (New York City)
11.04.2008; Julia Huang
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.