Our biggest worry with HIV/AIDS


TO know that Papua New Guinea has not done anything serious to address HIV is worrying.
It was made known during a research report launch this week that PNG was still a long way from achieving its 2030 goal of reducing the number of deaths, new infections and mother-to-child transmissions.
Not to be completely written off, efforts are being made by the Government as well development partners but it must be placed at the right place where the required outcomes would be achieved
Since HIV was first recorded in Papua New Guinea in 1987, HIV infections have shown a significant and steady growth.
In 2009, the number of adults (aged 15-49) living with HIV was estimated to be 35,800 which was equivalent to a national prevalence rate of 0.9%.
By the end of 2009, a cumulative total of 11,520 people were estimated to have died because of HIV-related illnesses and 5610 children had become orphans, losing one or both of their parents, as a result of the epidemic (National AIDS Council and National Department of Health, Consensus Workshop on HIV Estimation – 2010).
According to the World Health Organisation, HIV was the leading cause of death at Port Moresby General Hospital in 2005. A United Nations report estimated that 54,000 people in PNG were living with HIV in 2008 and that unprotected sex was the main mode of transmission of AIDS across all countries in the Pacific.
It found that the primary reasons for HIV infection were gender inequality, gender-based violence, the impact of alcohol and drugs on sexual behaviour, and commercial sex.
Education and safe sex programmes appear to have made some impact, with the percentage of sex workers using a condom with their most recent client going from 50 per cent in 2009 to 80 per cent in 2012 and 63 per cent of men used a condom for sex with a male partner in 2012, compared to 51 per cent in 2009.
HIV testing of pregnant women in Papua New Guinea has also improved, with the number of testing facilities increasing from just 17 in 2005 to 178 in 2009.
A 2011 academic review of the HIV epidemic in PNG found there has been real progress in recent years.
Initially, the 2030 goal aimed at reducing the number of HIV deaths to 500, but yet we are seeing more than 1000 deaths annually.
National Aids Council Secretariat director Nick Dala says new infections was aimed at below 1000 but PNG still have more than 2500 new infections every year.
We just had 400 new infected children with HIV in 2017 through mother-to-child transmission.
There are many challenges and one of them is the need for a better system in place to carry out as well sustain the prevention of parent-to-child transmission.
All efforts must be put into ensuring a proper solution for this long standing problem.
We need a strong advocacy tool through education, parenting and communities on the impacts of HIV on women and children.
It will be a huge challenge to reach the 90.90.90 UN targets to end HIV epidemic as we now have the knowledge and resources.
This means 90 per cent of people infected with HIV to know their status, 90 per cent of those who know their status to be on treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment to have achieved viral suppression.
It will be a steep challenge, given the dearth of resources for public health in Papua New Guinea.

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