13 Jul 2004

Australia warns of 'African-style' Aids crisis in Pacific region

10:23 am on 13 July 2004

Australia's warning of serious growth in the Aids epidemic in Papua New Guinea.

Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, told a meeting of Asia-Pacific ministers in Thailand that Australia will more than double the money it gives to other countries to fight Aids.

Officials expect PNG to be the main beneficiary of an extra quarter of a billion US dollars.

Alexander Downer says Australia's new strategy for the struggle against Aids will be a bid to prevent what he described as an "African-style" tragedy in Papua New Guinea and other countries.

The World Bank has estimated there may be up to 50-thousand people infected with HIV in PNG and infection rates are increasing by between 40 and 60 per cent a year.

Aids has already become the leading cause of death in the Port Moresby General Hospital where more than one per cent of mothers examined at the hospital test positive for HIV.

The head of Australia's aid agency in PNG, John Davidson, says the epidemic there could soon rival those in some African countries where infection rates have reached 30 per cent.