OverviewAround 30,000 people in Papua New Guinea are living with the HIV virus, with an estimated prevalence estimated at 0.6 percent among adults 15 – 49 years. A majority of transmissions are through sexual contact and just under 5% through mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The main self-reported risk factors among people diagnosed with HIV include heterosexual sex, mother to child transmission, homosexual sex, body piercing or tattooing and occupational exposure. Other drivers of the epidemic are the high number of gender-based crimes as well as legislation that criminalizes sex work and homosexuality.
UNICEF works with government and civil society organizations in Papua New Guinea to prevent new HIV infections and increase treatment during both decades of a child’s life through improved and equitable use of proven HIV prevention and treatment interventions by pregnant women, children and adolescents.
Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV
One of the best ways to ensure children are born free of HIV is to offer a package of services for Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV (PPTCT) to pregnant women and their infants. This includes a number of measures and medications that are administered during pregnancy, childbirth, and after delivery to prevent the passage of the HIV virus from mother to child. UNICEF supports the government of Papua New Guinea, faith based organisations and other civil society organisations to provide PPTCT services and keep parents alive, a measure which contributes greatly to child survival.
Treatment for children
There are an estimated 3000 children living with HIV in Papua New Guinea. Of the children living with HIV, only one third receives treatment when they need it. Many children are only identified as HIV positive when they begin to get sick or fail to thrive. Other children, especially those from poor and remote families, face huge challenges in accessing services as there very few health facilities that provide antiretroviral treatment to children across the country and majority of these are located in urban areas.
UNICEF also supports early HIV testing for children especially those born to HIV positive mothers and linking them to timely HIV treatment to reduce the high risk of mortality usually experiences among HIV infected infants.
Children living with HIV must have a nutritious diet, be able to access psycho-social support and, like all children, attend school. The majority of HIV positive children are reluctant to disclose their HIV status to friends and relatives in their community for fear of stigma and discrimination. Adolescents living with HIV face unique challenges related with puberty transition, disclosure of HIV status and adherence to lifelong HIV treatment.