Monday, February 12, 2007

HIV/AIDS in neighbouring Papua New Guinea

The Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea has rejected a report which predicted that up to a quarter of the nation's population could be infected with HIV/ AIDS by 2020 and up to a million people could die of AIDS and HIV. The report, released online (pdf format) by the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, argues that if HIV prevention measures are not increased, the virus could have a negative impact on the country's economy and labor force.

It estimates that 118,000 people, or 2% of the population, living in Papua New Guinea are HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence will be 18% by 2010 and 25% by 2020.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the virus is spread mainly through heterosexual contact. Miranda Tobias, report author and a research fellow at CIS, said that young women in the country are being targeted by residents who believe that HIV is spread through witchcraft. Tobias said that there were about 500 attacks on women in the past year that involved torture, sometimes for days, to obtain "confessions" from the women and that some of the attacks resulted in murder.

The government has not acknowledged the "actual and potential dimensions of the spread of HIV/AIDS and its effects," Tobias said, adding, "the problem has been coming for a while, and it is snowballing." The country has other health care problems, including the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world and a lack of running water in some hospitals, Tobias said.

However Papua New Guinea's Health Minister Peter Barter told Xinhua that the report's HIV prevalence projections are for the "worst possible scenario," but the "fact is that we don't have the worst scenario in Papua New Guinea."

No comments: