Mr James Hall, Minister Counsellor - Australian High Commission
2015 World AIDS Day Expo
SIR JOHN GUISE INDOOR STADIUM, 1 December 2015
- Director of National AIDS Council Secretariat, Mr Peter Bire,
- Dr Bieb, Director Public Health Branch, National Department of Health
- Distinguished guests, Diplomatic Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen
As a representative from the Australian High Commission, I would like to re-iterate my Government’s support for today’s theme, “Know Your Status, Get Treatment and Live Longer”’.
World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the health issues associated with HIV/AIDS as well as to reflect on the response to this epidemic, in PNG and worldwide. It is also a day to remember those we have already lost to HIV, and reflect on those living with the virus and those most likely to be infected by HIV and our responses in raising awareness and providing these groups greater access to quality HIV prevention, counselling and testing, Anti-Retroviral Treatment and care services.
Our Health programs are a priority for PNG
Improving health standards and eradicating HIV for Papua New Guineans is a priority focus of Australia’s aid assistance to PNG. As PNG’s largest development partner Australia remains committed to working with the PNG Government through the National AIDS Council Secretariat and the National Department of Health to fight the concentrated HIV epidemic in the country. The Australian Government supports the Government of PNG to implement the priorities according to the current National HIV Strategy.
Within the Pacific Region, Paua New Guinea is the only country that consistently allocates sufficient resources to fully support treatment for people who have HIV or AIDS. The Government of PNG is to be congratulated for having a high rate of people who need anti-retroviral drugs actually receiving them. Currently more than 30,000 Papua New Guineans live with HIV, and those accessing Anti Retro-viral Treatment has increased to nearly 80% over the past 4 years. The Government of PNG has worked with civil society organisations and faith based organisations to increase the retention rate of those on anti-retrovirals to more than 85%. Both these significant achievements can be attributed to strong leadership from the National Department of Health as well as effective collaboration with partners to improve outreach and client follow up. The Government of PNG has remained committed to ensuring sufficient resources are allocated to supply pharmaceuticals for the HIV response, rather than relying on donor support.
The improvement in outreach and the coordinated prevention campaigns have led to a HIV prevalence of 0.65% by the end of last year. However, despite this achievement, the challenge going forward is ensuring the response continues to address the geographically and socially concentrated HIV epidemic and the persistent presence of HIV in key populations: Female Sex Workers, Men who have sex with Men and Transgenders including people living with HIV. Research indicates within these key populations the highest prevalence of HIV is found within Transgender and the Female Sex Worker populations in Port Moresby.
The Australian government will continue to support the National AIDS Council Secretariat and the National Department of Health counterparts to focus on improving access to quality HIV prevention, care and treatment services for key populations, People Living with HIV and AIDS and the general population in the high prevalence provinces.
In 2015 the Australian government is committed to providing assistance to support tailored programs for key populations in four focus areas: HIV service delivery, advocacy, capacity building and governance.
Civil society organisations play a key role in HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection services delivery. The Australian Government continues to support civil society partners to respond to the concentrated HIV epidemic. During 2014, we collaborated with, and supported more than 20 Civil Society and Non-Government Organisation partners and in collaboration with the National Department of Health the key achievements were:
• Tested over 78,000 people for HIV;
• Tested over 43,000 pregnant women for HIV;
• Provided Anti-Retrovirals to around 14,000 people;
• Counselled more than 7,000 people on HIV/STI; and
• Distributed over 2 million condoms nationwide.
We will continue to support the National AIDS Council Secretariat and National Department of Health with promotion of safer sex, HIV prevention through outreach and linking clinical treatment, providing access to regular treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections, Voluntary Counselling and Testing and HIV treatment for Key Populations and People living with HIV and AIDS.
Experience shows that a rights based model is a key contributor to successfully prevent HIV, reducing stigma and discrimination, and improving access to HIV services for those people who are most at risk of HIV in PNG.
An important part of our overall aid program is investing in the social and economic wellbeing of women and girls to ensure they have equitable access to programs and services we fund. Our programs ensure women and girls have equal access to health and HIV care and services. Through our Gender program, the Australian government is also supporting PNG government to promote economic and political empowerment and addressing high levels of violence amongst PNG women, girls and children.
Consistent with today’s theme – Know Your Status, Get Treatment and Live Longer – the Australian Government will continue to support civil society and non-government organisations to provide quality and user-friendly HIV prevention and outreach programs, counselling and testing and treatment services to people in PNG.
On this World AIDS Day 2015, the Australian Government congratulates the strong efforts of the PNG Government and civil society partners who have played and continue to play a critical role in responding to HIV.