Papua New Guinea: UN agencies alarmed by reports that HIV sufferers are buried alive

Papua New Guinea: UN agencies alarmed by reports that HIV sufferers are buried alive

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The United Nations human rights chief and the world body’s HIV/AIDS agency today issued a joint statement voicing alarm at reports that people living with HIV have been buried alive in the Southern Highlands region of Papua New Guinea.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) backed the announcement that the Government of Papua New Guinea will investigate the reported crimes, and called on authorities to take “appropriate legal action” against any perpetrators.

“Worldwide, UNAIDS and OHCHR condemn acts of violence, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and are fully committed to supporting governments to protect their people from such human rights violations,” according to the statement, issued in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

The two agencies said they also welcomed the Government’s efforts to widen access to HIV services in rural areas, such as around Tari in the province of Southern Highlands.

“Widespread ignorance about HIV in isolated rural communities increases the risk of HIV infection and can fuel acts of violence, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV,” the agencies added.

The latest update on the disease by UNAIDS and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), released last December, described the AIDS epidemic as “serious and growing” in Papua New Guinea.

About 57,000 people over the age of 15 are estimated to be living with HIV, which gives the country an adult national prevalence rate of 1.8 per cent, and at least 2,000 new infections have been reported every year since 2002, by far the worst figures in all of Oceania.

The report said the data could worsen soon as Papua New Guinea has many risk factors, including high rates of concurrent sexual partnerships, sexually transmitted infections, ‘transactional sex’ and acts of sexual and physical violence against women, comparatively early sexual initiation and low rates of condom use.