By LIAM FOX
THE National Government’s pledge to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 is looking increasingly unrealistic.
The Government has pledged to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
But that goal is looking increasingly unattainable after the country’s major source of funding for anti-retroviral drugs dried up.
Every week, young women come to the Friends Foundation in Port Moresby to eat a free lunch and to collect milk formula for their children.
They are all HIV-positive and so are their young ones.
But most, like a 24-year-old who wishes to remain anonymous, are yet to tell their families because of the stigma that still surrounds the disease.
She said she was afraid her parents and family might hate her because she heard how they talk about other people who had contracted the disease.
She said her little boy was a miracle baby and cried while telling how he had been close to death several times in his short life.
“He couldn’t eat. He went very skinny, lost a lot of weight. Bones were sticking out of him,” she said.
As well as providing food, formula and counselling, the Friends Foundation cares for four HIV-positive orphans.
Its founder and director, Tessie Soi, said last year they helped 50 children and their parents.
She said this year the demand on their services had more than tripled.
“With the numbers that I’m seeing at 150, like 11, 12 months, I’m very worried about that figure,” she said.
In PNG around 10,000 people receive subsidised antiretroviral therapy (ART) – drugs that suppress the disease and allow them to live longer.
But the major source of funding for the expensive drugs has dried up after the Global Fund rejected PNG’s application for more money in its latest round of funding.
Sir Peter Barter, the chairman of the National Aids Council, said PNG only had itself to blame for the funding knockback.
“In round four funding there was a number of a lot of money given to PNG and the implementation of those projects wasn’t what you could describe as the best, in the interests of the people, particular those people living with HIV,” he said.
“We’re very slow-running, implementing seven projects. For us, it took us several years to really get people into treatment.”
Sir Barter said an alternative source of funding needed to be found quickly as there was only enough ART in PNG to meet current demands until next March.
Ms Soi says running out of ARV would be disastrous.
“What will happen is we’re going to get an influx of children getting positive because now the mum’s not on ART, if there is no treatment,” she said.
“Not only that, the mum’s not going to live longer. We’re going to have a lot of orphans.” – www.abc.net.au