AIDS set to decimate PNG: Barter

National, Normal

ABOUT 10% of the population of Papua New Guinea will be infected by the AIDS virus in six years if the Government does nothing to halt the current rate of infection, the PNG National AIDS Council has warned.
AIDS would have a devastating effect on the economy, and strike at more than 5% of the workforce by 2015, and it is estimated the prevalence rate would rise to 10% by 2025.
NAC chairman Sir Peter Barter painted this scenario in a letter to National Planning secretary Joseph Lelang urging Government intervention.
Sir Peter wrote to also clarify misunderstanding over the usage of K113 million in the 2010 Budget for NACS to be disbursed by donor partners.
He said HIV prevalence is likely to be more than 6% by 2015.
He said data from the 2005 HIV epidemiological modelling impact (HEMI) study estimated that without high impact interventions, 211,000 would be living with HIV by 2015, and there would be a 6.2-5.5% reduction in size of workforce, and that PNG could expect up to 10% prevalence by 2025.
“These rates demonstrate that PNG will not reach the MDG of halting the spread of the disease by 2015, if we do not control the current rate of increase in new infections,” he said.
He said the Nasfund tracking of mortality from AIDS since 2005 show the disease could erode the skilled workforce in the different sectors of the economy, leaving the nation in great peril.
Mortality from AIDS rose from 2.26 deaths per month in 2005 to 3.3 last year, which represent 10% of Nasfund member deaths, the average age was 39.6 years for men and 35
for women.
Breaking this down 37% were professional, technical and clerical, 35% was for security guards, maritime and airlines and 5% was for the mining industry.
“These rates will have serious implications for PNG’s need to increase its skilled workforce to meet the demands for future economic activities,” he warned.
He said HIV/AIDS had grown into a pandemic of large proportions in the country, spreading deep into rural area, and need to be tackled through an urgent and massive intervention by the Government.
“It needs to be tackled in a concerted way by all stakeholders.
“This includes Government, donor or development partners, NGOs, the private sector, churches, families and individuals.”
More than K450 million has been spent by donors or development partners in the past 12 years to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, while the government has spent on K40 million to date.
Sir Peter said the Government needed to do more.