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Care centers in PNG are creating awareness on HIV Credits: McMahon/Caritas Australia

Care centers in PNG are creating awareness on HIV
Credits: McMahon/Caritas Australia

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the highest HIV infection rate in the Pacific region. The true figure of people living with the disease in 2008 was estimated by the United Nations organisation UNAIDS at around 54,000 (out of a population of six million) although only half that figure was officially reported.

Caritas supports an extensive network of centres in PNG providing quick, economical testing, as well as follow-up counselling, under the sponsorship of the Catholic bishops of the country.

The regular supply and distribution of HIV rapid test kits ensures centres are well stocked. The demand for test kits has risen significantly as increased awareness of the facilities encourages more people to be tested.

The care centres also provide counselling for couples and promote prevention of mother-to-child transmission. They offer treatment and support to orphans and vulnerable children.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, travelled to PNG in 2009 to take part in training workshops for staff of these centres.While there, he met with UNAIDS officials and leaders of Christian churches to promote ecumenical collaboration in response to the epidemic.