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Working to achieve an HIV-free generation in PNG

© UNICEF PNG/Alcock/2014
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Yoka Brandt (left) chats about PPTCT with a health worker at the Goroka Hospital, Eastern Highlands Province

Port Moresby, 20 June 2014 – Ensuring that no baby is born with HIV is an essential step to achieving an HIV-free generation in Papua New Guinea.

This is possible if all pregnant women, particularly those most affected, know their HIV status and start the antiretroviral therapy immediately to protect their babies from HIV.

“We can have an AIDS-free generation by providing HIV testing for all pregnant women and providing universal access to appropriate treatment for all HIV-positive pregnant women who need it,” said Yoka Brandt, Assistant Secretary to the United Nations and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director when she visited Goroka Hospital in Eastern Highlands Province today.

An estimated 25,000 people in Papua New Guinea including 3000 children are living with HIV. The majority of these children acquire the HIV infection from their mothers during pregnancy, labour or delivery and through breastfeeding.

According to 2014 data on the burden of HIV in PNG, nine provinces – NCD, Enga, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Simbu, Jiwaka, Hela, Western and Oro provinces – have HIV prevalence higher than the national average of 0.65 per cent.

UNICEF contributes to the Government’s response to the HIV epidemic by supporting PPTCT services. In Eastern Highlands Province, with UNICEF support, seven rural health centres are providing antiretroviral therapy to eliminate new HIV infections among children and to keep parents and children living with HIV free from AIDS.

The impact of AIDS on children is both complex and multifaceted. Many suffer intense psychosocial and economic distress, and are likely to leave school to work to support their families. If they have lost their parents to AIDS, most end up living with the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease. This means they have less access to basic services, and that they are at higher risk of abuse and exploitation – and ultimately at higher risk of becoming HIV-positive themselves,” Ms Brandt warned.

UNICEF is also supporting the Government to simplify antiretroviral treatment to make it easy for people living with HIV to continue on the medication. The simplified treatment of one pill taken once a day is effective in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV. Other people living with HIV can be protected from advancing to AIDS using the same HIV treatment regimen. Simplifying and harmonizing HIV treatment will make life-long HIV treatment easier to stick to.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: <http://www.unicef.org>.

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For further information, please contact:

Noreen Chambers, Communication Officer; nchambers@unicef.org

 

 
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