16 Apr 2007

Papua New Guinea Minister says her country closed its eyes on HIV/Aids too long

10:41 am on 16 April 2007

The Papua New Guinea Minister for Community Development says ten years of political denial in her country over HIV/Aids means the disease has now reached epidemic proportions.

Dame Carol Kidu's comments came at a United Nations Aids conference held in Auckland attended by representatives from Pacific countries.

She says there was political refusal to draft legislation and recognise HIV/Aids as an issue, when their first case was diagnosed in 1987.

"The Prime Minister at the time thought that measles was more important, and that was because it wasn't obvious the actual impact that HIV/Aids would have, so we lost 10 years, by 97 we started to get some real action, at a political level, before that there had been attempts at bureaucratic levels, in the health departments, but without the political support it didn't happen."

Samoa's deputy Prime Minister, Misa Telefoni, says the just ended conference on HIV/Aids, is a wake up call for Pacific countries.

Misa Telefoni says the shame of HIV remains a block for many people, but if countries continue to ignore it the results would be catastrophic.

We're in the pacific are sitting on the cross roads, and we really need to address the issues, otherwise we'll go down the path of say South Africa where they went from one percent infection to 20 percent infection in seven years.