NAPWHA 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 2019 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference held in Perth, including two satellite sessions, Heads together: We can transform the region and Critical concerns for HIV treatment and care in Papua New Guinea which brought together experts including community representatives, clinicians and researchers who are involved in the HIV response in Papua New Guinea.
- 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’.
NAPWHA’s earliest collaboration with the positive people’s movement in PNG pre-dates the formal establishment and incorporation of Igat Hope — a national association which acts on behalf of PLHIV throughout PNG and represents PLHIV in a range of important forums and committees since 2003. Before there was any formal PLHIV group in PNG, individual HIV-positive advocates in that country had begun to seek support and advice from positive activists in Australia.
Through the Collaboration for Health in Papua New Guinea (CHPNG), NAPWHA was able to plan work in PNG in a more structured way with project activities which aimed to build the local capacity of the people of PNG in their response to HIV.
“NAPWHA are committed to working on supporting our communities in PNG and Igat Hope for as long as is required,” said Dr John Rule, NAPWHA Senior Research Manager.
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
“Now is a time for increased focus, attention and resourcing to help our communities in PNG to get on top of these priority actions,” Dr Rule said.