1 Dec 2006

PNG officials mark World AIDS Day

8:02 pm on 1 December 2006

Papua New Guinea's governor-general and the health minister have taken HIV/AIDS blood tests in front of hundreds of people to mark World AIDS Day and encourage voluntary testing for the disease.

The governor-general Sir Paulias Matane and health minister Sir Peter Barter attended a ally at the Tabari open-air craft market in Port Moresby to mark the day and promote awareness of HIV/AIDS and its threat to the country.

The pair gave finger-prick blood samples for testing as many hundreds of people looked on and applauded.

PNG has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS among Pacific countries with around two per cent of the population estimated to be HIV-positive.

Former US president Bill Clinton is due to visit PNG on Sunday to launch a new Voluntary Testing and Counselling programme to encourage Papua New Guineans to voluntarily take HIV/AIDS tests.

Mr Clinton's charity organisation, the Clinton Foundation, is already assisting PNG combat the disease by helping train nurses and doctors to administer HIV/AIDS drugs.

Sir Paulias said that the figures for PNG were alarming with around 60 per cent of beds in Port Moresby's General Hospital taken up with AIDS patients.

He said it is a time bomb waiting to explode if the country does not act quickly.