New Data Indicate Lower Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Papua New Guinea, Rapid Spread of Epidemic in Rural Areas
Data recently collected in Papua New Guinea indicate that fewer people are living with HIV/AIDS than previously estimated but that the disease is spreading more rapidly in rural areas, Health Minister Peter Barter said on Thursday, the AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports. The new estimates -- which were collected by government health agencies with the help of overseas partners, such as AusAID -- indicate that HIV prevalence among people ages 15 to 49 is 1.28%, compared with the previous estimates of 2% (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9).
A report released February by the Australian Centre for Independent Studies estimated that 118,000 people, or 2% of the population, living in Papua New Guinea are HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence will be 18% by 2010 and 25% by 2020 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/27). Barter said that although Papua New Guinea's HIV prevalence estimate has been lowered, it "does not mean that the HIV epidemic is decreasing." According to Barter, there are about 46,275 people living with HIV in the country, 18,484 of whom have been diagnosed. Barter also said that people in "rural areas should be aware that the trend is picking up strongly" and that HIV prevalence could be "much higher" in the "rural population compared to the urban rate." About 85% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 8/9).
Barter said the new figures also indicate a dramatic rise in the spread of HIV, with projected increases in the number of cases, AIDS-related deaths, AIDS orphans and people in need of treatment. In addition, the report also showed that the majority of cases occur among young adults and that a higher number of women are contracting HIV at a younger age compared with men.
"These changes in the epidemic call for the government and its partners to mobilize all resources to minimize the impact of the HIV epidemic on people's lives in both rural and urban areas," Barter said, adding, "We need to focus our interventions to young people, particularly female youth. Young people are the backbone of the nation's workforce and economy." Barter called on residents to practice prevention methods -- such as using condoms, practicing abstinence and being faithful to one partner. The target of Papua New Guinea's National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS is to reduce HIV prevalence in the general population to 1% by 2010 (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9).