THE Health Department estimates that there are more than 40,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in PNG..
Out of this, 22,000 are on lifesaving antiretroviral drugs (ART), according to Health Secretary Pascoe Kase.
In his World AIDS Day message, Kase said ART drugs were provided free of charge by the Government.
“Globally, there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus,” Kase said.
“Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
“Over recent years, Papua New Guinea has lowered its infection rate and improved treatment access to people living with HIV/AIDS.”
According to Kase, unprotected sex between men and women was the main mode of transmission of AIDS in PNG.
Kase said that between 2001 and 2011, the rate of new HIV infections in Papua New Guinea fell by 53 per cent.
“Despite this, each year in PNG over 2000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV, many people still do not know facts about how to protect themselves and others and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition,” Kase said.
“While HIV and AIDS remain a health problem, and the risk factors for contracting the virus still exist, the number of people affected by HIV has not reached the very high levels initially feared.
“This is due, in part, to an increasingly coordinated and cooperative approach to responding to HIV in PNG.”
Kase said in their response to HIV in the country, the Government and its partners have:
- Increased HIV testing at health centres and clinics;
- Greatly increased availability of ART drugs;
- Distributed condoms across the country;
- Made a commitment to address; and
- Provided funding or technical support.
Kase said that World AIDS Day was an important opportunity to address issues like legislation, stigma and discrimination (including by health workers), and homophobic and gender-based violence in PNG.
The theme for this year’s World Aids Day is; “Hands up for HIV prevention, count me in.”