According to statistics presented during the World AIDS Day celebrations at the YC Hall Grounds on December 3 in Goroka, HIV affects the most productive age group, those between 15-49 years of age, the vibrant labour force of our country.
The impact of the possibility that there could be a loss of talent and productivity to the development and growth of Papua New Guinea would be devastating and thus critical action is needed to ensure HIV is addressed.
Speaking at the event, Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku, on behalf of the PNGIMR Director, Dr William Pomat stated:
“We are the only dedicated Institute in Papua New Guinea who undertakes HIV research on a daily basis. Much of the data that was presented by the National AIDS Council (NAC) comes directly from the impressive work that my colleagues from the Sexual and Reproductive Health unit (SRHU) undertook,” said Assoc. Prof. Kelly-Hanku.
She explained that they collect numerical data, they count how many people there are, how many times they are using condoms, how many sexual partners they have and issues around stigma discrimination.
“For most of us who are HIV negative is very hard to imagine what it must feel like to be someone living with HIV. It’s important we understand what their lives mean to take treatment every day, and to face stigma discrimination from family and also what it means to sometimes be isolated and uncared for by the laws that we have in this country,” she said.
“IMR is committed to ensuring that we have evidence and a human rights base response to HIV in this country. That means, we must remove discriminatory colonial laws, they are not our laws, they are colonial laws from Britain,” said Assoc. Prof. Kelly-Hanku.
She made assurance that the PNGIMR will stand by the National HIV response until the government has all the data it needs and that the voices of the voiceless are heard.
“And until that day, when we can stand proud and strong and everyone is free to be who they are and to be safe from infection, the IMR will stand especially with the Eastern Highlands Provincial government,” she concluded.