ANTI-retroviral (ARV) drugs currently being distributed free of charge to people living with HIV and AIDS, can contribute to an increase in drug resistant carriers, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS has warned.
Committee chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham warned of this dangerous trend because of the lack of discipline among HIV carriers and AIDS sufferers and Papua New Guineans as a whole.
Mr Maxtone-Graham said Papua New Guineans were not time conscious and were not disciplined enough to take their drugs at the stipulated time every day of their lives which is why the danger of drug resistant strains of the AIDS virus being spread quickly through the community is very high.
He said: “You cannot afford to miss it one day.
“You miss it is a single day, you become resistant. And if a virus that is resistant to drugs is passed to others, the new infection will be resistant.
“PNG is not a highly disciplined society.
“The alarming story is that many are becoming resistant to the drugs currently being distributed by Global Fund and the Clinton Foundation.
“The other danger is also that people become complacent because they think once they are on the drug, they are cured so that they can afford to play around.
“This is not true.”
Mr Maxtone-Graham said PNG lost the battle to AIDS when it could not contain the infections in the urban areas.
“Once the infection spread into the rural areas we had already lost the battle,” he told an Australian parliamentary committee here to look at the HIV and AIDS epidemic in PNG.
“We have been far too complacent. Now it is spreading in the rural areas and it is a logistical nightmare.”
Second line treatment for drug resistant persons is not free and cost thousands of kina a month, putting it beyond the ability of most sufferers in the country.
Mr Maxtone-Graham, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Committee investigating Asian-owned and operated businesses said AIDS could decimate an undisciplined society and community like PNG and leave room for far more disciplined outsiders to take over PNG.
“This is the real danger we face,” he said.
“At the rate of infection in the country, which is as high as 20% in some areas and as low as 5% in other areas, we can lose our land and economy to groups of outsiders who are far more disciplined in their behaviours,” he said.
Mr Maxtone-Graham said the important message that must be hammered into the people is to take preventive action all the time and for all carriers and sufferers on drugs to maintain their regime habitually throughout their lives; to not become complacent or deceive themselves into thinking that they are cured once they are on drugs.