PNG PM SKATE CALLS FOR JOINT EFFORTS TO FIGHT AIDS

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By Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 29, 1998 - The National/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Prime Minister Bill Skate has called on leaders in all sectors of the Papua New Guinea community to cooperate to help fight AIDS, the National reports.

He was speaking at the launch of the national HIV/AIDS medium-term plan for 1998-2002 at Parliament House on Friday.

The plan is aimed at minimizing the development impact of the disease by preventing new transmissions and caring effectively and compassionately for those living with AIDS.

"The worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic has reached the shores of our young nation and is fast becoming a threat to the lives of many of our people. It is unfortunate but AIDS has already claimed the lives of 900 people (since it was first diagnosed in 1986) and the disease is spreading at an alarmingly high rate," Mr. Skate told about 100 guests.

"No leader can pretend that HIV/AIDS is not a problem for Papua New Guinea. Many leaders did this around the world and realized too late the devastating effects of this disease."

The Prime Minister said his Government had recognized the threat and gave full support to the establishment of the National AIDS Council to combat the disease in a systematic and comprehensive way.

"I am convinced that the rapid spread of HIV has implications far beyond the health sector alone. As has been observed in many countries, this epidemic is not only influenced by a country's development situation but has direct bearing on the development process itself," he said.

"Left uncontrolled or ignored, HIV/AIDS will undermine the advances we have made in the social and economic development of our nation. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a developmental issue. It cuts across many sectors of the Government and opens up a number of varied and difficult challenges for our Government."

Mr. Skate said with the medium term plan now in place, the National AIDS Council had a major task ahead to oversee the systematic implementation of the multi-sectoral program to battle the disease.

"I am charging you, the members of the council, to act swiftly. We have already lived with AIDS for more than 10 years. Many Papua New Guineans have been inflicted by this disease and many have died," he said.

"I call on all Papua New Guineans, the churches, NGOs, corporate agencies, donor partners and of course both sides in Parliament to help Papua New Guinea combat this epidemic. You can help by assisting the council to put this medium-term plan into motion."

The Prime Minister said the plan provided broad guidelines and objectives and required the development and implementation of specific programs for specific situations.

"I know it is a mammoth task but if we all work together as a nation, supported by our international community, we will start to win the war against HIV/AIDS," Mr. Skate said.

Title -- 1516 HEALTH: Skate plea to fight AIDS Date -- 29 June 1998 Byline -- Neville Togarewa Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- The National (PNG), 29/6/98 Copyright - The National Status – Unabridged

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