Papua New Guinea ‘New Frontline’ of HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Asia-Pacific Region, UNAIDS Director Piot Says
Papua New Guinea is "clearly ... the new frontline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region," and the "rapid" increase in HIV cases in the country is "shocking," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Thursday, Papua New Guinea's National reports. The country's National AIDS Council has recorded more than 10,000 HIV cases, but experts estimate that about 50,000 HIV-positive people live in the country and 10% of the population could be HIV-positive by 2010, according to the National (Darius, National, 2/18). Speaking on Thursday to an Asia-Pacific leaders forum in the capital city of Port Moresby, Piot said that Papua New Guinea "must mobilize all sectors of society or pay a high price," the AAP/Age reports (Jones, AAP/Age, 2/17). "There should be a united front that cuts across all boundaries in the fight against the AIDS epidemic as it is about the survival of your nation," Piot said, adding, "Some countries have been able to bring down the number of new infections, not by sophisticated technology or drugs, but by massive social mobilization. That is the key" (Xinhuanet, 2/18). Piot added that heterosexual transmission, "extreme" poverty, migration, sexual violence and inequality between men and women have combined to make an "explosive cocktail" increasing the spread of HIV in the country, according to Australia's ABC News (ABC News, 2/18).
The PNG government last year developed two parliamentary committees on HIV/AIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria beginning this year will provide a five-year, $30 million grant to the country for treatment and prevention programs. The National AIDS Council, USAID, several groups based in Australia and the European Union, and other nongovernmental organizations also are developing HIV/AIDS programs in Papua New Guinea (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/18/04). Piot said that "many of the elements needed to stop the epidemic [are] already in place in PNG, but it cannot be sustained and accelerated without your commitment." He urged the leaders to ensure that HIV/AIDS-related stigma does not "stand in the way" of people who wish to access information and treatment, according to the National (National, 2/18).