Goroka hospital achieves milestone in HIV testing

National, Normal

The National – Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GOROKA General Hospital has become one of the first in Papua New  Guinea to roll out the national early infant diagnosis for HIV.
The launch of phase two of a new molecular biology laboratory at the hospital yesterday funded by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) marked that milestone.
The laboratory opens up increased opportunity for quality HIV testing and monitoring services for adults and children.
The new facility, jointly opened by CHAI president Ed Wood and AusAID ambassador for HIV, Murray Proctor, was witnessed by Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith, staff of the hospital and other stakeholders.
Wood said the programme started small at the Goroka General Hospital five years ago and had grown to teach people  paediatric and laboratory testing and monitoring.
He commended the hospital management and staff for their support and collaboration with the Clinton Foundation in implementing the plans and programmes.
Wood said they wanted to extend the initiative from Goroka to other people.
He said Australia would extend its partnership with PNG for at least another two years to combat the spread of HIV from mothers to their unborn babies by providing K26 million.
Proctor said  the first phase of CHAI was funded by Australia between 2006 and last year and achieved positive results.
“Prior to the first phase of CHAI, babies born to HIV positive mothers at Goroka Base Hospital were not tested for HIV before 18 months and many did not live to see their first birthday,” Proctor said.
He said they were now tested at six weeks and put on medication.
Proctor said this had resulted in a dramatic reduction in the deaths of babies born to HIV positive mothers – from 95% in 2007  to 21% last year.
“Previously, 75%  of HIV positive pregnant women in the EHP would simply not seek help for HIV,” he said.
“Now almost 100% are enrolling in the programme.”