PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 29) – Frightening is the only word to describe the latest figures and thoughts to come to us about HIV/AIDS.

These bits of news have to be taken seriously by key decision-makers and by our people in general.

The National Aids Council has estimated conservatively that more than 100,000 people in Papua New Guinea are living with HIV/AIDS. Or if you prefer to be less delicate in saying it, have the disease and are staring at a premature death!

If we divide 100,000 afflicted into a population of 5.5 million, we are saying that one in 55 people in our nation are HIV/AIDS victims. Add to this the council’s estimate that the "real’’ figure is three or four times that figure.

So, we are possibly saying that one in 14 people has the condition. Allied to these figures is the statement from Nasfund boss Rod Mitchell that our methods of getting the information across to the people are probably not much use.

He does not think the view of six-month "experts’’ and the spending of vast sums to get the news across in Western ways is achieving the objective. He believes our people need much more down to earth messages, including the one that men have to start using condoms whenever they have sex, especially in situations where they cannot be sure of their safety. Our men need more realistic and positive role models for the use of condoms, he says.

If we are in the situation of having one in 14 people afflicted with HIV/AIDS, it is time to get deadly serious. There can be no more aimless shuffling of feet and espousing of platitudes.

The professionals in the field must start to be listened to and their ideas acted on. Women must start to say "No’’ when men try to have their way without protection. Yes, we know that this can lead to violence. But isn’t getting infected with a deadly disease for which there is no readily available, affordable cure or palliative, so much worse than a black eye?

The figures suggest that the explosion in sufferers is among young women and girls and older men, with the implication being that older, wealthier men are paying the girls to overlook the risks. Therein lies a huge risk to the health of our nation and our future. We can get along without some of the rich men, politicians and businessmen who pay for their overnight "delights’’. But we cannot do without our new generation of youth and talent.

May 30, 2006

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/


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