8 Feb 2007

PNG warned of mass deaths in AIDS epidemic

2:04 pm on 8 February 2007

A new report on HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea predicts that a million people will die of the disease if the government does not tackle the problem head on.

The report by the Australian think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, suggests that the epidemic will affect a quarter of the population by 2020 but says the problem is not due to a lack of aid.

The report's author, research fellow Miranda Darling Tobias, says there is enough money coming into the country to fight AIDS but the lack of infrastructure means the money is not going where it is needed.

Instead Ms Darling Tobias says the rapid rise of those infected is due to PNG's low baseline of general health with a population debilitated by a variety of diseases.

She says the low status of women is another factor and she believes it is up to the government to show political leadership in combatting the disease.

"Until the leadership, the people in the Papua New Guinea government, the real heads come out and really tackle this head on and honestly and with their own people, you're going to get a reluctance to face the disease, a reluctance to talk about it, a stigma that will remain."