Image: Burnet Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination, Chad Hughes
Burnet Institute has joined key stakeholders in the HIV response in urging donors, governments, communities and people living with HIV to redouble their efforts to address the HIV ‘crisis’ in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The Call to Action, Critical Concerns for HIV Treatment and Care in Papua New Guinea, is a response to special challenges faced by PNG identified at the recent PNG National HIV Summit, and last month’s national conference of the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM).
- High levels of resistance to first-line antiretroviral (ART) treatments
- Frequent stock-outs of ART drugs causing interruptions to routine treatment
- Crisis-level rates of HIV transmission from parents to children
- Many people in key populations unaware of their HIV status
- Poor uptake of prevention methods, including condoms
- Stigma and discrimination as barriers to service access
The signatories – Burnet Institute, National AIDS Council of Papua New Guinea, ASHM, PNG National Department of Health, National Association for People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), and Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) – identify the HIV epidemic in PNG as ‘a growing health security risk to Australasia and the Indo-Pacific region’.
“It’s a call to action for Australia and for donors to say, let’s not drop the ball on PNG now,” Burnet Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination, Chad Hughes, said.
“Now is the time they really need international support in terms of donor funds and resources, and in terms of technical support from agencies such as Burnet to make sure they have the best possible opportunity to end the epidemic in the coming years.
“We’re one of the major Australian organisations that’s working with the Government of PNG to address the epidemic and we’re committed to working on this problem for as long as is required."
The signatories make a number of key recommendations including:
- A fully-funded and secure budget for ART including immediate roll-out of new HIV treatments
- Appropriate training and support for healthcare workers
- Creation of a six-month drug supply buffer nationally, and three months for clinics
- Increased access to HIV testing linked to treatment and care
“Although we may be getting on top of our epidemic in Australia, PNG certainly is not, and now is a time for increased focus and attention and resourcing to help them get on top of those priority actions,” Mr Hughes said.
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