GOVERNMENT MINISTER WARNS AIDS COULD DESTROY PNG

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 12, 1997 - Niuswire/Post- Courier)---Health Minister Ludger Mond warned yesterday that AIDS could devastate Papua New Guinea unless drastic remedial action was taken now to halt its spread in the country.

Since the incurable and invariably fatal disease was first reported in PNG in 1987, 319 people had been confirmed sufferers and 108 of them had died so far.

``It is predicted that we could have 8000 HIV infected persons in Papua New Guinea by the end of this year,'' he said during debate on a bill to establish a National Aids Council. (HIV is the virus which causes AIDS.)

``If control measures are not firmly established now, we could have between 15,000 to 20,000 persons infected by the year 2000.''

The most vulnerable were girls and women between 15 and 30 years old, he said.

Mr. Mond said the devastating effects of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa could be repeated in PNG ``if we keep turning a blind eye to this human scourge.''

``What we have is that the route of transmission of AIDS is sexual transmission, as in Africa,'' he said. ``Our male to female ratio is one-to-one, meaning that the disease is transmitted through normal sexual relationships.

``Further, our figures show that our daughters are the most vulnerable in the age bracket of 15-30 years. It is in this age group that we are seeing the highest peak.

``There is another peak now emerging and that is that our newborn babies are also showing evidence of infection by the HIV.''

Mr. Mond said that in Uganda the disease found most of its victims in the most economically productive age groups, crippling productivity and the economy. This left many orphans and old people fending for their survival and depleting public resources to support them, and the rise in the number of AIDS cases became too much for the national health system.

The same pattern was likely to be repeated in PNG unless the disease was stopped, he noted.

Mr. Mond said the task of the National Aids Council would be: to take multi-sectoral approaches to prevent, control and eliminate transmission of HIV; to organize measures to minimize the personal, social and economic impacts of HIV infection and AIDS; and to ensure that personal privacy, dignity and integrity are maintained in the face of HIV/AIDS in PNG in accordance with the constitution and the global strategy on Aids. Parliament passed the Bill without dissent.

Title -- 1077 HEALTH: AIDS 'could destroy PNG Date -- 12 December 1997 Byline -- Neville Togarewa Origin -- Niuswire Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 12/12/97 Copyright -- Post-Courier Status -- Unabridged

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