16 Sep 2008

HIV warning for Australian businessmen on "fly in-fly out" trips to PNG

7:32 pm on 16 September 2008

Australian Health specialists are warning abuot the risks of contracting HIV for those on work trips to Papua new Guinea.

This comes as a cluster of Australian businessmen have contracted HIV after having risky sex with bar girls and prostitutes on work trips to PNG.

The Cairns Sexual Health Service has diagnosed six men with HIV in the past 10 months after "fly in-fly out" trips to the Pacific Island nation, a major sexual health congress will be told.

The men, aged 47 to 66, were mostly based in North Queensland and three had a female partner in Australia, none of whom have tested positive to the disease.

Sexual health experts say the new trend mirrors similar spikes seen in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and were "extremely alarming".

The director of the Cairns Sexual Health Service, Dr Darren Russell, warned this small cluster could just be the beginning of a very large outbreak.

He says it indicates the HIV epidemic in PNG is becoming more generalised which puts these men at greater risk, and in that climate the numbers will only rise.

PNG has the highest incidence of HIV in the Pacific region, with two per cent of adults - about 64,000 people - now infected. Rates are highest in the capital Port Moresby, with locals and a handful of locally-based expatriates most are risk.