PNG AIRPORTS BEAR AIDS MESSAGES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 5, 2001 -- The National)---The initials CAA do not only stand for "Campaign Against AIDS."

They also stand for Civil Aviation Authority, and within the senior ranks of PNG's newly corporatized aviation administration there is a strong sense of social obligation that is setting the standard for other entities to follow.

Major airports in the country now bear signs warning travelers of the danger of HIV/AIDS.

At Jackson's Airport, Port Moresby, the signs are so big you can see them from the air, giving passengers something to think about even before they touch down.

"It's not to give overseas visitors the impression that PNG is an AIDS-ridden country, but simply to remind them that AIDS crosses all international borders, and follows travelers wherever they go," said CAA chief executive officer Miria Ume.

"When people travel it is fair to say that they sometimes don't pack their good sense to take with them on the journey.

"On holidays, or working away from home, travelers seem to be less guarded about their behavior, and that is a very good time for HIV/AIDS to strike.

"The airports authority and the aviation industry are not responsible for people who lower their normal guard when they are traveling, but we are a very people-focused industry, and we want to look after our clients."

He said international experience had shown that HIV/AIDS followed the pathways of commercial and tourist travel.

Truck drivers and roadside stop-over workers are many times more likely to be the first carriers and recipients of the deadly disease.

Seamen and dockside workers are equally vulnerable to early infection as an AIDS epidemic spreads.

Airline routes and airports also show up as red-alert veins of concern, as the deadly geography of the killer virus unfolds, Mr. Ume said.

CAA is showing the way, and other community-minded organizations will follow suit.

SP Brewery has donated dozens of its huge billboards across the nation, to be painted with anti-AIDS messages. The newest of these is at Goroka market, where thousands of men and women pass by each day. The market rooftop now carries what may be the nation's biggest-ever outdoor advertising sign, with the important survival message in letters three meters (about 10 feet) tall: "Lukautim Yu Yet Long AIDS."

The National Aids Council says it is pleased with the support shown by corporations for the national awareness campaign.

"As well as being good corporate citizens, big business may also recognize that HIV/AIDS targets the mobile, active members of our community, including young professionals and people in good jobs," HIV/AIDS council director Dr. Clement Malau said. "The impact of early deaths due to HIV/AIDS will be felt by the corporate sector, and will affect the PNG economy seriously if we do not succeeded in warning people of the danger.

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

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