8 Jul 2004

A third of the personnel in PNG's Defence Force could be infected with HIV

3:41 pm on 8 July 2004

A senior Aids doctor in Papua New Guinea is predicting that up to a third of all soldiers may be infected with the HIV virus which causes Aids.

Dr Joachim Pantumari, who is the senior medical advisor for the National Aids Council, says one to two soldiers are dying of AIDS each month and about one percent of soldiers have already tested positive for HIV.

He predicts that once widespread testing has been completed, the numbers of those testing positive will rise to match the infection rates of the general population of around thirty percent.

"I do not mean to create a picture where it's very bad for the military, but it's my experience and the military can tell the prevalence of infection would be about the same as in the community."

Dr Pantumari says soldiers with the virus have the option to remain in the army until their condition worsens.

The PNG government says Aids threatens to destroy the army, if left unchecked.