PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 1) - Papua New Guinea ranks highest per capita in reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific, with 7,036 confirmed cases reported as of March this year. 

An expert at the Australian National University says PNG ranks first in the number of cases per 1,000 of adult population, in comparison with Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Tuvalu.

This was revealed at a one-day PNG update business conference in Mt Hagen last week by Dr. Vicky Luker of the Australian National University (ANU) in a paper titled "Sate Society and Governance in Melanesia".

"If we look at HIV/AIDS numbers in the Pacific, we can be sure of two things, trite but true; we need good numbers, but we don’t have them; and with no doubt, PNG is the Pacific island country with by far the most notifications — 7,036 reported cases as of March this year, " Dr Luker said. 

In the most recent cases reported on HIV/AIDS in the first five top countries in the Pacific, New Caledonia had 246 cases by July 2002, Guam had 173 reported cases by October 2002, French Polynesia had 226 cases by December 2002, Tuvalu had only nine cases reported by August 2002 and PNG had 7,036 reported cases by March 2003. 

PNG also plots the steepest and most consistent rise in cumulative Pacific island countries. 

PNG has also reached the first three stages in the development of the epidemic. It has steadily moved through all the three stages with three more stages remaining. In the sixth stage of the epidemic, massive intervention will be needed at all levels. 

Households, communities, enterprises and districts would be struggling to manage and provide services. Responses would range from creative coping to failure of economic and social entities. 

"Papua New Guinea needs to look seriously into measures that should stop further spread of the epidemic and establish realistic strategies to minimize and overcome the spread," Dr Luker said. 

December 1, 2003

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