U.N. Team Estimates Papua New Guinea Has More Than 10,000 HIV Cases
A U.N. fact-finding team on Friday announced that Papua New Guinea, a country of about five million people, has an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 HIV-positive individuals, the Papua New Guinea National reports. The team, led by Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, said that the cases are equally split between men and women and that a "growing number" of infants are contracting the virus through vertical transmission (Papua New Guinea National, 2/26). The Associated Press reports that up to 12,000 people may have been infected with the virus in the past six months, as only 3,145 cases had been reported at the end of last year. Rojanapithayakorn said, "This is a very serious epidemic and the evidence is that the number of people infected with HIV is increasing every year." In May, Sue Crockett, head of the Australian AusAID sexual health project, said that Papua New Guinea could have up to 22,000 HIV cases, and that if "left uncontrolled," the virus could decrease life expectancy from 51 years to 38 years for women and 53 to 39 years for men (Associated Press, 2/26). However, the U.N. team "lauded" the government's national AIDS plan, which has as priorities raising HIV/AIDS awareness and providing clinical services to those infected with the virus. "We are impressed with the government's medium-term plan and see it as a very good development in the right direction," Rojanapithayakorn said, adding that there remains a need for "increased efforts" to include HIV-positive individuals in prevention plans and decrease the stigma associated with the disease. Noting the financial resources Papua New Guinea has made available to fight the epidemic, along with the country's financial support from Australia and the European Union, the team said that further discussions will take place to plan "possible technical and financial support from U.N. agencies" to fight the epidemic (Papua New Guinea National, 2/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.