PAPUA NEW GUINEA WARNED OF AFRICA-LIKE AIDS EPIDEMIC

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By Lucy Kapi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 12, 2002 – The National)---Another 340 new HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in the two months since December 2001, confirming fears the epidemic is spreading quickly in the country.

The new figures raise the total of recorded HIV/AIDS cases in the country so far from 4,075 to 4,415.

This means that, on average, PNG has recorded about 315 HIV/AIDS cases every year for the 14 years since the disease was first diagnosed in the country in 1987.

But world authorities believe that there could be more than 20,000 people in PNG living with the HIV virus, and have warned that the country could face a similar situation to that in many sub-Saharan countries, which are being engulfed by the epidemic.

While releasing the new figures, National AIDS Council (NAC) Secretariat Director Dr. Clement Malau told a forum on HIV/AIDS in Port Moresby yesterday that everyone needs to ask why the disease was spreading quickly.

Dr. Malau said everyone needs to ask the questions why the disease is getting bigger in the country; why women are turning to prostitution and end up at discos every night and why poverty is increasing in the country.

Dr. Malau said the four main messages that were used in a nationwide campaign last year remain valid and people must follow them to help reduce the spread of AIDS in PNG.

The four main messages are: abstain from casual sex; be faithful to your sexual partner; use condoms and encourage those living with AIDS by giving them positive messages of living longer.

Meanwhile, the wife of Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, Lady Roslyn Morauta, said AIDS was one of the issues discussed at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia.

Lady Roslyn, who accompanied her husband to the meeting, said representatives of countries in Africa talked about AIDS and how they are addressing it.

"For PNG, it is really important that we learn from those countries," she said.

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

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