HIV/AIDS ‘Threatens To Overwhelm’ Papua New Guinea, Agence France-Presse Reports
Papua New Guinea faces an HIV/AIDS epidemic that "threatens to overwhelm" the country, Agence France-Presse reports. The World Health Organization estimates that 1% of the population is HIV-positive, and the number of HIV cases in the country could reach one million in 10 to 15 years "unless decisive action is taken now," according to Shigeru Omi, WHO's West Pacific regional director. HIV transmission in the country primarily occurs through heterosexual contact and is fueled by a "culture of promiscuity, a high incidence of rape" and an active commercial sex industry, according to Agence France-Presse. In addition, "there is no notion of nation or general community here, and that makes any prevention program more difficult," Yves Renault, the WHO representative in the country's capital, said. Papua New Guinea, which has been politically unstable since its independence from Australia in 1975, lacks a health care infrastructure, and the country's culture of fear, shame and ignorance about HIV/AIDS has made HIV-positive people "pariahs in their communities," Agence France-Presse reports. "The stigma is very high. We have many [HIV-positive] people forced to sleep under their houses or in the street because the family is afraid," Rachel Pokesy of the National AIDS Council said. However, the government recently developed two parliamentary committees on HIV/AIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will provide $30 million over five years to the country for treatment and prevention programs beginning in 2005. Several other groups in Australia and the European Union, as well as USAID, the National AIDS Council and other nongovernmental organizations, are developing HIV/AIDS programs in Papua New Guinea (Agence France-Presse, 8/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.