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By Scott Waide

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 30, 2000 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---The rate of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) infections from mother to unborn child showed a dramatic increase from four percent in 1998 to 9.1 percent by December 1999.

Members of the Sandaun Provincial Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS) Council were told these shocking figures in an HIV/AIDS workshop conducted in Vanimo last week.

"This is the second most common mode of transmission. It is an increase of over a hundred percent," said Dr. Clement Malau, Director of the National AIDS Council, who conducted the workshop.

Dr. Malau, who also presented statistics contained in the final quarterly HIV/AIDS report of 1999, said the AIDS epidemic will selectively kill the country's young productive, sexually-active population within the next few years if the trend of infection is not recognized and dealt with effectively. He added that the trend -- similar to African countries -- was developing in PNG and that this would cause development problems in the future.

While the number of those being affected is skyrocketing by the month, unprotected heterosexual intercourse remains the most common mode of transmission. Dr. Malau pointed out that AIDS has become the good people's disease also, as it does not only affect those involved in prostitution but ordinary women who have normal sexual relations with their husbands as well.

"One in every five sex workers is affected and 60 percent of the men who visit them are normal married men and they, in turn, infect their wives at home," he said.

Another disturbing point shown in the report is that a high number of young women are being affected.

"We see also that there is a high number of females between the ages of 20 and 25 being affected, which indicates that older men are going out with younger women," he said. "It is an issue of money and power."

Dr. Malau said that while several provinces in the highlands and southern regions reported sharp increases in reported cases, AIDS testing in Gulf, Bougainville and Sandaun has been almost completely confined to the screening of blood transfusion.

He has also called on provincial and other authorities to support efforts to contain the disease.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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