By YVONNE HAIP
WESTERN Highlands province could be facing an AIDS crisis soon if the deadly virus continues to spread at the current rate.
Data from the Tininga HIV/AIDS clinic in Mt Hagen released on World AIDS Day on Tuesday is frightening.
The data showed that the clinic records between 35 and 40 new HIV/AIDS cases per month.
Dr Veronica Kaima, the Highland’s regional coordinator of HIV care and treatment, said they were beginning to feel the stress of an increase in patients.
She said they estimated that nearly 6,000 people were living with HIV in the province, and this number was rising monthly at an alarming rate.
She said there was a lot of pressure on the Mt Hagen General Hospital’s laboratory, which cannot cope with the increasing demand for all laboratory tests for HIV in the province.
Dr Kaima said the Tininga Care Centre serve 70 to 80 HIV patients a day and register 35 to 40 new cases every month.
Access to service by the people was becoming difficult, especially drugs like ARV, she added.
She said if the Global Fund ceased supplying the anti-retroviral drugs, the Government should find a substitute programme to provide care for people with AIDS at the district levels.
Dr Kaima said deteriorating health facilities, lack of proper laboratory equipment and funding for the district health centres should be improved.
She said other sicknesses like TB, diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid, and scabies were treatable at health centres in the rural areas and not necessarily at hospitals.
She said ARV drugs could also be available at health centres in the districts but this was not happening.
Dr Kaima said statistics showed that since 2006, the ARV drug had reduced HIV deaths by 40%, adding that if such drugs were available at the district level, the deaths could be further reduced.
She called for more emphasis to be placed on providing care and treatment at the district levels in line with this years theme ‘Make HIV prevention, treatment, care and support accessible in PNG – it’s our right”.