1 Dec 2005

HIV/Aids in PNG could rival worst cases in Africa, Red Cross warns

12:00 pm on 1 December 2005

The Australian Red Cross says Papua New Guinea's HIV/AIDS epidemic could rival the AIDS catastrophes in Africa's worst-affected nations unless immediate, large-scale action is taken by the international community.

The organisation's chief executive officer Robert Tickner says under an absolute worst-case scenario an unfettered epidemic in PNG could claim up to 120,000 lives per year.

The Asian Development Bank says Papua New Guinea could go the way of Sub-Saharan Africa due to the potential devastating economic impact of an Aids epidemic on poor countries.

The similarity of sexual behaviour patterns in PNG and Sub-Saharan Africa has raised concerns that the epidemic in PNG could reach comparable levels.

Papua New Guineans in their late teenage years engage in high levels of sexual activity and alcohol and drug use.