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MEDIA RELEASE September 27, 2001 Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea


An intensive campaign to fight the AIDS virus and prevent its further spread has been officially launched today at the State Function Room, Parliament House.

This national effort is the first phase of a National HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign designed to raise awareness and increase knowledge on the AIDS virus, which is a fairly new disease in Papua New Guinea.

The primary groups targeted in this campaign are females and males who are 14 - 44 years old with a specific focus on the family unit; males and females who have multiple sex partners, clients of commercial sex workers; men who have sex with men and people who share sharps for initiation or scarification. It is expected that the entire population of PNG will benefit from these important no-nonsense, straight-talking messages.

The official launch today paves way for an intensive eight-week awareness campaign, which is programmed to reach all provinces through radio, television, newspaper advertisements, posters, billboards, public meetings and community events including radio talk back and extensive news coverage.

The familiar sounds of the garamut drums can also be heard in the TV and radio messages to serve as a call to action for all Papua New Guineans to come together as a nation and work together to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus and support people living with it.

Today’s launch gives the media of Papua New Guinea the limelight as the front-runners in this campaign of AIDS awareness and prevention messages to all of the five million Papua New Guineans at risk of the AIDS virus.

The key campaign messages are:

With first detection of HIV/AIDS in 1987 in PNG, the numbers of people who have contracted the disease have increased to 3,901 of which 464 new cases have been reported in the second quarter of this year. There are 1,366 confirmed AIDS cases and 249 people have died from the disease.

Director of the National AIDS Council Secretariat, Dr. Clement Malau, also emphasized that 100 more people are being infected every month and this trend will not end if people are not educated NOW.

He said, "Anyone, old or young, rich or poor, man or woman can contract the virus. AIDS does not respect tradition, culture or religion. We have to become aware of it, and change our behavior or AIDS will affect a great many of us."

Dr. Malau also stressed the importance of having only one sex partner and always wear a condom if you have more than one sexual partner.

The Australian Government is supporting the National AIDS Council Secretariat through the National HIV/AIDS Support Project and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the outdoor advertising component of the campaign. Provincial AIDS Committees, churches and community-based groups are also involved and many of the country’s leading commercial companies are contributing to support this campaign.

The first phase of this campaign will go on for eight weeks and after that an evaluation process will take place to determine the success of the campaign of essential messages passed on to the 5 million people in Papua New Guinea. Later phases of the campaign will further develop the AIDS prevention messages, including essential changes in behavior.

The National AIDS Council points out the importance of using clear and accurate terminology in these straight-talking, no-nonsense messages.

"Knowledge about safe sex behavior is a vital part of community awareness and education. However, this involves discussion of issues which are not usually talked about publicly," commented the Kaleamen Indistange, Information, Education and Communications Advisor of the National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS).

"The use of unclear or inaccurate terminology will lead to confusion about how people become infected or how people can protect themselves from the AIDS virus. For this reason, and after serious consideration and consultation with stakeholders, the NAC has endorsed the use of some language that some might find offensive in this campaign dealing with community education on HIV/AIDS," stated Mr. Indistange. He also indicated that the NACS hopes these messages and the sounds of the garamut will serve as a wake up call to all Papua New Guineans to eliminate the high levels of complacency that exists and to realize the urgency of changing their behaviors now to avoid further spread of the AIDS virus.

For additional information: Kaleamen Indistange Information, Education and Communication Adviser National AIDS Council Secretariat PO Box 1345 Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea Ph 675-323-6161 Fax 675-323-1629

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