More than 47,000 living with HIV, official says


More than 47,000 Papua New Guineans are living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) with Enga being the highest HIV prevalence province.
National Aids Council Secretariat (NACS) regional manager Valentine Tangoh told a workshop on gender equity and social inclusion in Port Moresby yesterday that the spread of  HIV still outpaced responses taken in the country despite some progress being made.
“National HIV prevalence is estimated at 0.89 per cent among adults (15-49-year-olds). That’s the highest among Pacific nations,” Tangoh said.
He said for last year and this year, it was estimated that there are 47,795 people living with HIV in PNG.
“Of these, 2800 are estimated to be new infections for this year alone, one quarter of them are children and young people.  New born babies account for 16 per cent of new infections annually.
“These are data shown by people who went to the hospitals or in voluntary counselling centres getting tested on their HIV status.
“However, there are many people in the country who don’t go to test and know of their HIV status and so the figure might increase,” Tangoh said.
He said the pandemic was concentrated in certain geographical locations within key population groups.
“HIV prevalence of one per cent or more is recorded in the Highlands provinces and Enga is the highest with 1.77 per cent, National Capital District with 1.64 per cent, followed by Jiwaka with 1.49 per cent, Western Highlands with 1.32 per cent, Western with 1.23 per cent, Eastern Highlands with 1.0 per cent, Chimbu with 0.9 per cent, Oro, Manus and Central with 0.7 per cent, Madang with 0.6 per cent and the other provinces showing a much lower prevalence.”
He said HIV prevalence in 2014 was 0.7 per cent with the total number of people living with HIV estimated to be 37,000 but HIV prevalence has increased to 0.89 in 2016 and 2017 with a total of 47,795 people estimated to be living with the virus.
Of the 47,795 people living with HIV, only 52 per cent or 23,800 are on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“The rest are not receiving any treatment  and that is a major concern.
“Major fluctuations in government budget allocations are a real issue that contributes to this high prevalence.”
Tangho said further that HIV/Aids was a developmental issue and must be addressed across all sectors.
“HIV should still be seen as a huge threat to Papua New Guineas’ national security and stability and economic growth.
“This is the fact that we as a country cannot deny.
“We need response from all sectors of the community and that can only be realised by integrating the aspects of HIV into policy documents.”
Tangoh said integrating HIV issues into the Medium Term Development Strategy was timely and could reach out to all government agencies and organisations, political leaders, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and communities.
“We must strengthen partnerships and integration with and between government agencies, political leaders, government workers and teachers to take ownership of HIV in the workplace and teach the students.
“We seriously need committed government funding through the annual budgetary allocations and provincial administrators must take HIV issues seriously into their annual plans and their five-year development plans.”