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Papua New Guinea facing HIV crisis: Australian Red Cross launches Public Appeal


Friday November 24, 2006

Papua New Guinea is at risk of a crippling HIV epidemic comparable to that in Southern Africa, according to the CEO of South African Red Cross, Mandisa Kalako-Williams.

PNG has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific. Already 60,000 people are living with HIV, and AusAID studies indicate that if immediate action is not taken, that figure could be as high as 500,000 within the next twenty years.

Ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1st, Ms Kalako-Williams will today join the chairman of PNG Red Cross, Winston Jacob and the CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner to launch an appeal to help support efforts to slow the spread of infection.

'In South Africa we see first hand the devastation that HIV and AIDS can wreak across the population,' said Ms Kalako-Williams, 'and it is crucial now that Papua New Guinea Red Cross, with support from Australian Red Cross, continues to work with those already affected and people at risk.'

'The challenges of an impending HIV and AIDS disaster need a holistic approach, starting from awareness of the disease, encouraging voluntary testing and counselling, as well as acknowledging the burden of caring for sick affected people on any country. This is where the Home Based Community care programs of the Red Cross come into play, utilising trained volunteers that come from the communities themselves,' said Ms Kalako-Williams.

'The programs also have to incorporate care of orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS. We have to be the best advocates for the humane care of people affected by the disease, promoting access to treatment, fighting against discrimination as well as including People Living with HIV in our programming,' she concluded.

'In PNG, our HIV programs focus on preventing further transmission, assisting in the care and support of people living with HIV and AIDS and reducing stigma and discrimination,' said the Chairman of PNG Red Cross, Winston Jacob.

'But we need all the help we can get if we are to make any significant headway against this epidemic.'

Money raised by the Australian Red Cross PNG HIV Appeal will help support the expansion of PNG Red Cross HIV programs throughout the country, employing and training staff in regional areas and assisting PNG Red Cross Society to develop its Voluntary Blood Donation Recruitment Program.

The CEO of Australian Red Cross Robert Tickner said Australia had an HIV epidemic on its doorstep.

'We must act not only because PNG is our closest neighbour and because we have historical ties with the country, but because an HIV epidemic has major economic as well as social implications,' Mr Tickner said.

'As we have seen in sub-Saharan Africa, by disproportionately affecting young adults, an HIV epidemic has the potential to undermine the economic viability of a nation, dismantling social structures and economic development.'

'Australian Red Cross, in partnership with PNG Red Cross is keen to ensure we help as much as we can to combat the spread of this disease,' Mr Tickner said.

Mandisa Kalako-Williams, president of South Africa Red Cross, Winston Jacob, Chairman of PNG Red Cross and Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross will be available for comment at a media conference at 12.30pm Friday 24th November.

Venue:
Keltie Bay Room
Level 1
Stamford Plaza Hotel Double Bay
33 Cross Street
Double Bay, NSW 2028

To donate to the PNG HIV Appeal:

  • Visit www.redcross.org.au to make a secure online donation
  • Call 1800 811 700 toll free or
  • Send a cheque to: GPO Box 2957 marked 'PNG HIV Appeal', Melbourne, Victoria, 8060

NOTE: Australian Red Cross will deduct no more than 10% of any donation for an international appeal to cover its appeal costs.

Should the funds raised exceed the amount required by ARC and the PNG Red Cross to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of HIV programs, Australian Red Cross will use any excess funds to support other HIV initiatives in the Pacific region.

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