PNG HIV rate said to be going down, but others aren't so sure
The UN says HIV infections are going down in Papua New Guinea, but others paint a less rosy picture.
A United Nations official says HIV infections are going down in Papua New Guinea.
But some believe there is still a long way to go in order to stabilize the transmission rate.
Lucy Smith reports.
Ten years ago there were fears among the health community that PNG's HIV AIDs infection rates were approaching sub-Saharan Africa proportions. However the UN AIDS director for the Pacific region Steve Kraus says by taking an holistic approach to treating the virus the number of new infections is declining.
STEVE KRAUS: In Papua New Guinea, we've seen some good success taking place, in terms of prevention of new infections. The numbers in Papua New Guinea have fallen. Today the infection rates are well below 1% of the adult population in PNG.
Steve Kraus says it's a joint effort from communities and officials that will make a positive difference to those living with HIV.
STEVE KRAUS: There's been a big effort both by the government and civil society to really try to scale up access to treatment so that you can get tested, and so if you know your status is positive you can access high quality ARVs So PNG deserves praise for its work in prevention. and PNG really needs to scale up its treatment coverage and continue addressing gender violence particularly violence against women and make them scared and unable to access services.
Former PNG cabinet minister Dame Carol Kidu remembers when HIV first came to PNG.
DAME CAROL KIDU: The first diagnoses was in 1987, for I'd say 10 years basically PNG basically stayed in denial by 1997 infections were increasing, and they realised it could become a major problem. There was a lot of panic, I don't know if I'd say it was running rampant, but there was alot panic when it suddenly dawned on people that this could become quite an issue.
Dame Carol says once HIV becomes a community issue rather than just a health issue, the virus will truly be controlled. Co-director of Appropriate Technologys Steve Layton is based in Goroka he works with people who have HIV, and finds them medical support. He says no one really has an accurate picture of whether rates are falling or rising.
STEVE LAYTON: We have about 130 plus people with full blown aids, who we take care of that number has been fairly stable, which indicates to us, that we have people who are basically giving up on taking the drugs, and they're obviously dying and that number is then being replaced with new people who come to us for assistance
Steve Layton says his clinics may have to close if they can't get funding next year. He says it takes a long time for people to feel comfortable asking for assistance, and closing clinics will cut off some people from the support they need.
STEVE LAYTON: Clearly there is a lack of overall funding from these programmes. So, I'm not quite clear what we're going do next year, we're looking for other funders - whether we get them or not? I don't know. The dilemma for us is if we don't get those funders, not only do we not support the 50 plus volunteers, we're going to have 230 people with full blown AIDS, with nowhere to go.
Steve Layton says there is still a need to educate people about how the virus is contracted.
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