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Papua New Guinea, Australian Officials Discuss PNG's HIV/AIDS Research, Prevention Efforts

March 6, 2009

Papua New Guinea should invest in HIV/AIDS research and evidence-based strategies to curb the spread of the virus in the country, Duncan Kerr, Australian parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs, said Tuesday at a press conference in Papua New Guinea's capital of Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier reports. Kerr said he had held discussions with officials from Australia and Papua New Guinea who agree that the country should prioritize efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS (Gerawa, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 3/4). He added that the Australian government is committed to helping Papua New Guinea develop strategies to counter the rising prevalence of HIV in the country.

According to Kerr, if HIV transmission rates remain at their current levels, Papua New Guinea by 2015 will have an HIV prevalence of 6%, meaning that 200,000 people in the country will be HIV-positive. In addition, this could reduce the number of people in the workforce by about 6.2%, according to Asia Pulse/Individual.com. Romanus Pakure, acting director of Papua New Guinea's National AIDS Council, said Kerr's visit will help strengthen the country's research agenda on HIV/AIDS, including efforts with the country's leading research institutions. Pakure said the country needed to support research to understand the factors and patterns associated with HIV transmission. In addition, it will be important to monitor behavior over long periods of time to appropriately address the disease, he said. According to Pakure, a contribution of 1.8 million Papuan kina, or $660,000, from the Australian government for HIV research indicates that both countries place similar emphasis on the importance of scientific study.

Kerr added that Papua New Guinea also will need to exert political will to reduce HIV prevalence in the country. According to Kerr, communities that emphasize behavior change regarding sexual conduct and high-risk behaviors will achieve greater success in efforts to curb HIV transmission (Asia Pulse/Individual.com, 3/4). In addition, government officials will need to prioritize HIV/AIDS efforts at the highest level in order to implement changes in the country's health system and sex education curriculum. Papua New Guinea's health system could become overburdened if HIV prevalence increases, he said. According to the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, Australia has identified HIV/AIDS as one of its four priorities for development cooperation with Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 3/4).

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