By YVONNE HAIP
WESTERN Highlands province has the highest rate of HIV infections in the country.
Statistics also revealed that the province has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS who are currently on anti-retroviral (ARV) drug.
According to the Provincial AIDS Council, this also means that the ARV drug roll-out programme in the province is good and that infected people are visiting voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres.
Provincial care and counselling coordinator Pr Apollos Yimbak said the infection rate kept on rising but “most of these people who come for testing are already using the ARV drug”.
He said about 2,500 people were now using the ARV drug out of the 5,656 new confirmed cases (as of 2008).
However, he said those infected would suffer if the supply of ARV in the country was affected by lack of funding.
“Without ARV, it would be hard to manage the infection rate. Some of the people now using the drug are working class people and the educated population of the province.
“The drug is seen as their hope of living because it sets a future in their lives. If those infected stop using the drug, they will face life-threatening health complications,” Pr Yimbak said.
Meanwhile, those infected are going ahead with their protest walkathon from Mt Hagen to Port Moresby.
They plan to travel from Mt Hagen to Lae, then on to Popondetta where they will walk the Kokoda Track to Port Moresby.
While in Port Moresby, they will gather at Waigani to stage a protest over the disruption to ARV supply.