27 Nov 2007

PNG Government official says culture used as excuse in battle to combat AIDS

2:46 pm on 27 November 2007

Papua New Guinea's attorney general says cultural, religious and legal barriers are being used as excuses to prevent progress towards combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Hitelai Polume Kiele, who is also PNG's acting Secretary General for Justice, shared her views at a meeting in Fiji this week of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific.

PNG is estimated to have up to 150 thousand people with the virus and Ms Kiele says a cultural shift is needed.

"Culturally the issue of polygamy in Papua New Guinea is very dominant. A man can have more than 20 wives. And this is one reason why there is a constant increase. They may say I've got 20 wives but I want another one. But how can we stop that? That's something that the government has to do."

Hitelai Kiele says the lack of governance of millions of dollars in donor funds and international aid earmarked for HIV AIDS work is another barrier.