New study reveals Papua New Guinea’s alarming HIV epidemic


Researchers from the Papua New Guinea Institute for Medical Research and the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW say expanded health services are needed to tackle high rates of HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infection among key populations in Papua New Guinea.

The study, Kauntim mi tu (“Count me too”) was released on 16 May in Port Moresby by the PNG Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS, the Honourable Sir Puka Temo.

Populations considered most at risk for HIV and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are female sex workers; men who have sex with men; and transgender women.

HIV prevalence among female sex workers in Port Moresby was 14.9%, Lae 11.9% and Mt Hagen 19.6%.

Even more concerning is that less than half those were aware they had the virus.

Among men who have sex with men and transgender people, HIV prevalence was 8.5% in Port Moresby and 7.1% in Lae.

“Far more work needs to be undertaken to ensure increased access to testing,” said principal investigator Dr Kelly Hanku.

“However, equally concerning is the high prevalence of stigma, sexual and physical violence, poverty and depression experienced by these populations.”

The report revealed that almost half the female sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender women surveyed said they felt they needed to hide their sexual practices when accessing health services.

“People who are concerned about stigma from health services may be deterred from attending and will not be able to receive the full range of services available,” she said.

“This is why a holistic approach to HIV and STIs is urgently needed in PNG, alongside a scale-up in the supply of essential antibiotics and HIV treatment.”


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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