AIDS TOPS 50 CASES A WEEK IN PNG PROVINCE

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By James Apa Gumuno

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 30) – Officials at Mt. Gagen General Hospital in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province are reporting eight to nine new cases of HIV/AIDS each day.

This amounts to 56 to 63 cases a week, with mother-to-child transmission dominating.

Provincial AIDS Council representative Apollos Yimbak warned that HIV/AIDS is spreading like bushfire, with most of those infected between the ages of 15 and 35 years. Reports attributed the rapid increase to poverty, social activities at night and the consumption of home brew and marijuana.

"Parents should talk openly about sex with their children," Mr Yimbak, who is also a HIV/AIDS counselor, said. "Open air awareness has had very little impact. Parents and churches must now take the lead to educate people about the dangers of premarital sex. Sex education needs to become an open topic in all educational institutions."

Official figures put the number of confirmed cases in Western Highlands in December 2003 at 1,290. However, Mr Yimbak believed the figure would have tripled by the end of the year.

October 1, 2004

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