Prasada Rao, chief of the UNAIDS team for Asia and the Pacific, said Papua New Guinea was the region of most concern across Asia and the Pacific, where generally progress had been achieved in combating the AIDS virus over recent years.

But in Papua New Guinea the virus spread was still escalating.

UN reports show growth in numbers of new cases have increased exponentially, from 21 per cent in 1984-1989 to more than 99 per cent in 2008.

The UN estimates there are 54,000 people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea.

The UN has forecast that by 2012 Papua New Guinea will face a prevalence rate of 5.07 per cent with 208,714 people being infected with HIV – almost four times the number today.

‘The most challenging thing to me is the Papua New Guinea scenario, where I think it’s not just the reachability that is important but the strength of the health system itself by which it delivers services – it is a big question,’ Rao told AAP.

‘And I think much of the health system in Papua New Guinea is in a state of collapse.

‘So outside Port Moresby I don’t think we can even think of a health system as an effect to really deliver services,’ he said.

Rao, in a special interview after five years in the top post, said there was a need to look at alternative medical service delivery.

‘For example the faith-based organisations, international non-government organisations working in these areas, businesses (such as mining companies),’ he said.

‘I think Papua New Guinea is a challenge in terms of looking at alternative delivery systems.’

Mr Rao said while he recognised Australia was providing significant assistance in the fight against AIDS in Papua New Guinea, he called for closer cooperation between the national health system and the Australian aid program.

‘Right now what we see is two parallel programs going on.

‘The government’s national program on one side and AusAID’s own program.’

Mr Rao said there was a need for greater cooperation between both systems.

‘You may not completely merge the two programs but implement it in a way there’s no duplication and also there’s no grey area which is left by both programs,’ he said.

‘There is need for much more coordination, much more integration of service delivery, between the AusAID program and the national program,’ he said.

© 2010 AAP

 

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