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HIV drug shortage may put people’s lives at risk in Papua New Guinea

HIV drug shortage may put people’s lives at risk in Papua New Guinea

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Stocks of anti-retroviral drugs to treat people living with HIV are at a critical shortage in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean has the ‘highest incidence and prevalence of HIV in the Pacific’, according to UNAIDS.

Now, HIV groups in PNG are warning there are not enough drugs to go around, with concerns people may die as a result of the shortage.

Maura Elaripe is living with HIV and also a member of HIV group, Igat Hope.

‘Everyone who’s on treatment will be affected and people may die,’ Hope told ABC’s Pacific Beat.

‘For me, anti-retrovirals are the drug that keeps me going … so I can continue living my normal life.’

The PNG government did not confirm the stock levels of anti-retroviral drugs. But Elaripe estimated there is only one month’s supply left in the entire country.

Papua New Guinea’s HIV problem

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, with only about 52% are accessing antiretroviral therapy, based on data from UNAIDS.

The country already has enough difficulty getting people to stay on life-long treatment, especially among key populations and in the country’s remote and often hard-to-reach communities.

Elaripe said cuts to HIV funding has made it hard for advocacy and medical groups to pay for antiretroviral treatments.

‘So the problem really is that we don’t have enough funds to purchase drugs,’ she said.