Now Reading
At the 11th hour, Papua New Guinea’s HIV drug crisis has been averted

At the 11th hour, Papua New Guinea’s HIV drug crisis has been averted

A group of people standing together in a room facing the camera and smiling

Stocks of anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV have been replenished in Papua New Guinea as the country faced a critical shortage.

Last month, medical experts and HIV advocates warned people ‘may die’ due to the low number of HIV drugs in the country. Experts estimated Papua New Guinea only had about one month’s supply left.

Some medical centers were even forced to ration anti-retroviral treatment (ARTs) to patients, so they wouldn’t run out.

But the country’s Health Minister, Puka Temu, confirmed Papua New Guinea has just received a new shipment of ARTs. The new shipment should last about four months for the people taking ARTs.

‘We did an emergency order, and I want to assure that 500,000 tablets are sitting at the customs,’ he said in parliament.

Temu confirmed that UNAIDS and UNICEF were also helping to get more ARTs into Papua New Guinea.

‘We worked with UNAIDS and UNICEF who are mobilizing another three to four month of anti-retrovirals. I’m assured by our UNICEF team that this will be in the country within two weeks.’

The 500,000 tablets along with the shipments from UNICEF will ensure the country has enough ARTs to last until the end of 2018.

HIV is serious in PNG

PNG is one of ten countries that account for about 95% of new HIV cases in the Asia Pacific region.

In 2016, Papua New Guinea had 2,800 new HIV infections and 1,100 AIDS-related deaths.

About 46,000 of people are living with HIV in PNG. But only about 52% are accessing anti-retroviral therapy, based on data from UNAIDS.

Advocates blamed health budget cuts as the reason the country almost ran out of ARTs. But one HIV advocate said the pressure on the government after this incident may help improve funding to HIV.

‘We recently had a launch last week with the Minister for Health and he said he would give the priority to commit funding for ARTs in the future,’ Lesley Bola told Radio New Zealand.