More than one-third of the adult population in Papua New Guinea could die of AIDS-related causes within 20 years if the spread of HIV is not controlled in the country, according to a report released Thursday by the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
According to the report, if HIV prevention measures are not increased, the virus could have a negative impact on the country's economy and labor force.
The report estimates that 118,000 people, or 2% of the population, living in Papua New Guinea are HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence will be 18% by 2010 and 25% by 2020.
According to the Morning Herald, the virus is spread mainly through heterosexual contact. Miranda Tobias, report author and a research fellow at CIS, said that young women in the country are being targeted by residents who believe that HIV is spread through witchcraft.
Tobias said that there were about 500 attacks on women in the past year that involved torture, sometimes for days, to obtain "confessions" from the women and that some of the attacks resulted in murder.
The government has not acknowledged the "actual and potential dimensions of the spread of HIV/AIDS and its effects," Tobias said, adding, "The problem has been coming for a while, and it is snowballing."
The country has other health care problems, including the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world and a lack of running water in some hospitals, Tobias said.
Australia has allocated $60 million over the past six years to fight HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea, but Tobias said the money "has not reached the health needs of the population," the Morning Herald reports (Banham, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/8).
Papua New Guinea's Health Minister Peter Barter on Thursday said that the report does not take into account the government's efforts to curb the spread of HIV in the country.
According to Barter, the government is "actively engaged in combating HIV.
He added that although the report's HIV prevalence projections are possible in the worst possible scenario," the "fact is that we don't have the worst scenario in Papua New Guinea" (Xinhua/People's Daily, 2/9).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat to view the report.