HIV / AIDs – Still destroying Lives and destroying Dignity in PNG
In Papua New Guinea, HIV/AIDS is a continuing and sadly a growing problem, causing many issues in families and their communities. Many lives, especially young people and children are being impacted due to this epidemic – with HIV orphans on the rise every year. Numbers are likely to be well underreported but most recent data reports a HIV prevalence among the general population was near 1% and up to 17.8% in some select ‘at risk’ groups1. Over 95% of HIV cases in the Pacific are reported from Papua New Guinea.2
The impact of HIV in PNG is vast, causing devastation to health, disconnection amongst families and communities, destruction of dignity and the human heart.
PNG is a nation made up of many tribes whose culture in the past provided safety for those orphaned or sick. With the HIV epidemic, ignorance and fear has turned families away from supporting their own loved ones. Now children are finding themselves abandoned and isolated, needing care, treatment and safe, loving homes. It is estimated that perhaps 1,200 children are born HIV positive every year.
HIV is a condition that sadly continues to poorly understood and managed in PNG. Those affected (or even suspected have HIV) are faced with a daily dose of fear, shame, rejection, isolation, depression, social stigma, low self-esteem, neglect, abandonment and death. What’s worse than a negative physical outcome are those who are already dead inside while living – those who have lost all hope.
There are many reasons why HIV is on the rise in PNG while in neighbouring countries it is in decline. An ambulance officer working in PNG and seeing many cases day in and day out stated “rape is like a national sport in PNG” and “not only by strangers but many times within families”. These sad realties along with ignorance of hygiene and sexual health measures, promiscuity, infidelity and prostitution around big centres like Port Moresby – it is no wonder the epidemic is on the rise.
Moreover, current treatments are many times poorly managed and often ineffective without sound education and follow up. Australian Doctors International (2016), have identified that:
- PNG has one doctor per 17,068 people, compared to 20 per 20,000 in Fiji and one per 302 in Australia.
- Health expenditure is US$49 per capita, compared to $107 in the Solomon Islands, $154 in Fiji and $4,775 in Australia.
- Based on our own iCare4U survey/study of “pregnant women newly diagnosed with HIV at Port Moresby General Hospital over a six month period”(data collected as we give iCare packs to those women) we found there were an incredible 105 new registrations! And these results are from only one hospital in Port Moresby.
|Estimated number of people living with HIV in 2014
|Estimated number of new HIV infections in 2015
|Number of people on antiretroviral therapy in 2015
*This could be done as a “strip” with the stats done in a better graphic or whatever your team thinks will look bestJ
- Kelly, A., Kupul, M., Man, W.Y.N., et. al. (2011) Askim na save (Ask and understand): People who sell and/or exchange sex in Port Moresby. Key Quantitative Findings. Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales: Sydney, Australia.
- Global AIDS Response Reporting Papua New Guinea 2015.