PRESS RELEASE: New UNAIDS report finds an increase in new HIV infections in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, 20 July 2017—A new UNAIDS report on the global HIV epidemic finds new HIV infections in Papua New Guinea have increased by 4% between 2014 and 2016. At the same time the country has experienced a significant improvement in its HIV treatment coverage with 52% of all people living with HIV accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicine.

The Ending AIDS: Progress towards the 90-90-90 targets report finds a slight upward trend with an estimated 2,800 new HIV infections occurring in Papua New Guinea in 2016. This uptick follows several years where new infections have stubbornly remained stable, recording no decline. Between 2001 and 2009, the country experienced a massive 41% decline in new infections, but the repeat of such progress has remained elusive.

“Clearly prevention efforts have stalled and Papua New Guinea needs to return to the leadership it has shown with such success in the past and re-invigorate its HIV response,” says David Bridger, UNAIDS Papua New Guinea Director. “The government and development partners must step up efforts and reach people most at risk with effective programming.”

There remain a number of obstacles to reaching the government’s goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. These challenges include the existence of laws which criminalise sex work, same sex sexual behaviour between consenting adults, high rates of gender-related violence, and the challenges of extending health services to Papua New Guinea’s rapidly growing and young population.

For many years, the country was considered to have a generalized epidemic and HIV programmes were designed to reach the entire population. However, there are indications that similar to many other parts of Asia and the Pacific, Papua New Guinea may have a concentrated epidemic, where key populations are most at risk.

A 2011 Study conducted by the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research and Australia’s University of New South Wales found that among female, male and transgender individuals who sold or transacted sex in Port Moresby, the unadjusted HIV prevalence was 17.6% overall. This finding resulted in the government commissioning a more extensive bio-behaviourial study in the country’s three largest urban communities with significant technical and financial support from the governments of Australia, United States, UNAIDS and other partners. The new study will contribute to the country’s understanding of the HIV epidemic by providing better focused information than has previously been available, helping  policy makers, implementers, service providers, and financing agents implement the most effective programmes.

“Papua New Guinea has made significant progress over the past ten years in putting in place a set of HIV programmes and services, creating an enabling policy environment, and this has led to a large increase in access to life-saving treatment,” said Dr Nick Dala, National AIDS Programme Manager of Papua New Guinea.

The country has experienced a significant improvement in the roll out of treatment services,  especially in the higher burden provinces in 2016. Nearly 24 000 people were accessing ARVs in 2016, more than ever before.

There are, however, indications that the country’s health system is facing difficulties in retaining people on life-long treatment especially among key populations and in the country’s remote and often hard-to-reach communities.

UNAIDS urges Papua New Guinea to renew its commitments and investments in the country’s HIV response and to address the difficult legal and policy issues which continue to impede the country’s  prevention, treatment and care programmes. There is a need to review the architecture of the country’s response within the changing financial landscape and the evolving understanding of the country’s epidemic.





UNAIDS Port Moresby | David Bridger| tel. +675 7057 7136|

UNAIDS Bangkok | Saya Oka| tel. +66 2680 4128 |


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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