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International News

Papua New Guinea: Fears Gas Project Will Fuel AIDS Epidemic

January 5, 2010

AIDS advocates in Papua New Guinea fear a planned multibillion-dollar gas project could spark new HIV infections over the next decade. The Exxon-Mobil venture, which is being partly funded by the Australian government, is expected to produce $30 billion (US $26.85 billion) in income over its 30-year lifespan.

"With thousands of men coming in on short-term contracts loaded with cash, and thousands of mainly poorer local people also drawn to the project, the chances of HIV being spread through sex workers and drugs is extremely high," said Wep Kanawi, director of the PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat. "Given that the project will be attracting manpower from all parts of PNG as well, it's likely that we could have an explosion of people either infected or affected by the virus, not just at the mine sites but right throughout the country."

Australia's trade minister, Simon Crean, has pledged $550 million (US $492 million) to the project.

"Along the Highlands Highway in Western and Eastern Highlands provinces, prevention, treatment, and care services are being provided by a range of partners receiving Australian assistance," said a spokesperson for Crean.

HIV mitigation efforts will include "closed camps, education and awareness, referral, testing and counseling," said Miles Shaw, a spokesperson for Esso Highlands, which will run the project. At press time, it had not yet released its community health plan.

Back to other news for January 2010

Adapted from:
Sydney Morning Herald
12.31.2009; Flint Duxfield; Ben Cubby

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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.
See Also
HIV /AIDS in Papua New Guinea
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