Thursday November 30, 2006
Australia has an HIV epidemic on its doorstep which threatens to have disastrous consequences for our nearest neighbour, only four kilometres away from Australia's northern borders, according to the CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner.
Australian Red Cross has launched an appeal to help deal with the looming crisis and Mr Tickner is currently visiting PNG to see what is already being done and ways in which Australian Red Cross can further assist.
'AusAID studies indicate that unless immediate action is taken, more than half a million people will be living with HIV in PNG within the next 20 years,' Mr Tickner said. 'In a country of 5.9 million people, that would be almost 10 percent of the population and that has enormous social as well as economic ramifications.'
'Urgent action is required to stem the spread of the epidemic,' he said.
Of particular concern is the plight of women and young girls.
On World Aids Day (1st December) the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says the growing number of females affected around the world is because of the social vulnerability of many women and girls, including from rape, sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Women and girls living with HIV also face the additional challenge of stigma and marginalisation.
In recognition of this factor, HIV programs in PNG focus on reducing stigma and discrimination as well as preventing further transmission and assisting in the care and support of those already affected.
But a lot more work needs to be done.
Money raised by the Australian Red Cross PNG HIV Appeal will help support an expansion of those programs into more communities, employing and training staff in regional areas and assisting the PNG Red Cross Society to develop its voluntary blood donation recruitment program.
'We must act now and we must do all we can to assist PNG to combat the spread of this virus' said Mr Tickner.'
To make a donation:
Visit www.redcross.org.au to make a secure online donation
Call 1800 811 700
Send cheque (no money) to:
PNG HIV Appeal 2006
GPO Box 2957 Melbourne
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 programmes, Australian Red Cross will use any excess funds to support other HIV initiatives in the Pacific region.