Papua New Guinea
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HIV, TB infections soar in PNG

The civil society group Business for Health, or B4H, which works with businesses to raise awareness particularly about TB, has expressed deep concern at what it calls the alarming rate of new HIV infections in Papua New Guinea.

B4H director Ann Clarke said with education, access to testing and treatment, it was felt the peak of the HIV epidemic had passed.

However, Clarke said the latest HIV snapshot from UNAIDS revealed 6500 new infections, which is a 91% increase from the 2021 report.

"What we know is that there were more new infections in each year for the last two years than there were when we thought we had the peak of the epidemic in the early 2000s," she said.

"What we're seeing is like the TB situation, the world is distracted from the conditions that we were confronting before Covid.

"We're seeing a consequence of all sorts of complex impacts of  ovid in a country that has an economy that is really struggling, overpopulation in the main cities where he did the focus point, and the consequences of a dire state of government."

She said the TB situation had resulted in "more deaths last year than we have ever had even before we had proper medications for TB and PNG".

"Our program continues to work with workplaces to create leadership around seeking behaviour that address lack of information and lack of understanding and dealing with very complex issues," she said.

"TB and HIV are very close friends. Where we have very high rates of community transmission of TB, where someone doesn't know their HIV status, infectious disease that may kill them is tuberculosis."

Clarke said creating leaders at workplaces who understood the signs and symptoms and that access to free clinical services was not just a global awareness campaign was important to get people to attend and use medical services.

"What we have here in PNG is a program for PICT ... a strategy whereby someone who goes to the for TVs is also offered HIV testing, and someone who goes to HIV testing is also offered TB testing.

"So, where we have high community transmission of infections, we can try and kill two birds with one stone."

She said no-one could be forced to have an HIV test.

"Preparing people kindly, before they go to a TB test that they will be offered an HIV test is something that is part of the process. When people are well informed about the process, they are more likely to agree to be tested."