8 Feb 2007

Grim report overstates impact of AIDS on PNG says UN body

7:27 pm on 8 February 2007

UN Aids says a report outlining the impact of HIV/Aids on Papua New Guinea has been overdramatised.

The report, which was released today by the Australian think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, says that one third of the PNG population may die within 20 years from AIDS, devastating the country's labour force and economy.

It also predicts that a million people will die of the disease if the government does not tackle the problem head on.

But the UN Aids Pacific sub-regional co-ordinator says the experience in Uganda, Thailand and Brazil suggests that the situation can be turned around.

Stuart Watson says long-term sustained campaigns can work and he believes the figures have been exaggerated.

"We know that there's a natural level at which HIV will max out in a population, we know this from Africa so it's not likely to have the sort of devastating impact. It's dependent on behaviour so if we can tackle the issue around sexual behaviour then we can significantly reduce the impact."

Stuart Watson of UNAIDS.