Papua New Guinea is a country found in the south western part of the Pacific Ocean. Though a small country, New Guinea is diverse with a large number of indigenous languages and culture. The country is also majorly rural with only a small percentage of the population found in the country’s urban centers.
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AIDS, being a global epidemic, is an element that is felt in New Guinea. This paper seeks to discuss the topic of HIV/ AIDS in the country with respect to demography. Demography refers to elements of human population such as the number of registered births, income and diseases among others. The paper will look into the elements of the epidemic with respect to statistics that relates to demography.
HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea
New Guinea is not spared from the global epidemic that has threatened lives without any hope of a potential solution. Papua New Guinea has been slow to respond to the development of the diseases that was realized to be spread quite fast.
Even though the disease was first noticed in the earlier years of the 1980s, it was news to the country of Papua New Guinea till in the year 1987 when the first case of AIDS was reported in the country.
The spread of the disease also took a slower pace as years passed before the disease was significantly realized among the population of New Guinea. It actually took almost a decade before the country realized the spread of the disease (McBridge, 2005, 1).
Quiet a number of reasons have been used to explain the trend in which the epidemic engulfed and grew in the country. One of the reasons why the epidemic took a longer time to be felt is the population structure of the country.
The country’s population in urban areas is relatively low as compared to population in the country’s rural areas. A country whose urban population is significantly low compared to its rural population would realize a slower rate of the spread of the disease.
Another reason for the slower rate of spread of the disease in the earlier years was the country’s poor infrastructure. The country’s transport network is reported to have been “a highway system that did not network across the whole country” (Caldwell and Touta, 2002, p. 1).
Having a highway system that was not adequately distributed throughout the county hampered the communication and interactive nature of people who were in different parts of the country.
This meant that those who were infected with the disease were to a great extent confined to their locality by the poor transportation system. This therefore had impacts on the spread of the disease by restricting movements of victims to other regions where they could further spread the disease besides their locality.
A general existence of moral values in the country that led to a low level of commercial sex in the country was also a factor to the lower rate at which the disease initially spread.
Since the disease is majorly spread through sexual intercourse, it depended on the level of unsafe practiced sex by people which include multiple sex partners.
Such is the experience in commercial sex which then risked lives at a time when protective measures against AIDS had not been on the public knowledge. Limited such irresponsible practices thus helped to reduce the rate of spread of AIDS in the country (Caldwell and Touta, 2002, p. 1).
The spread of AIDS in the country
Things however changed in the country with the prevalence rate of the disease taking a turn towards the end of the twentieth century. AIDS became a major problem in the country as it was reported to constitute the highest cases in hospitals as compared to other diseases.
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The turn was alarmingly reported with statistics at around the year 2002 indicating that the disease was increasingly infecting people at a rate of about sixty percent per year. Such a rate can be interpreted to be a potential threat to the country whose total population is below six million people.
Though the country was credited for lower reported cased of commercial sex activities, it has experienced high levels of sex practiced outside marriages. Extra marital sex, being an element of having multiple sex partners therefore has contributed to the significant levels of increased cases of the epidemic in the country.
With reports of high susceptibility of women to the infection, their sexual involvement with men who have multiple partners has been a great risk to the lives of these women as well as the country’s population in general.
The prevalence rate that was formally considered to be relatively lower in Papua New Guinea as compared to other countries has changed with statistics indicating that the rate in new guinea, recorded at 0.22 % as compared to those of other regions such as Fiji that recorded 0.07 %, Australia with 0.15 % and New Zealand with 0.06 % with all the data taken in around the year 2002 (Caldwell and Touta, 2002, p. 2).
According to McBridge William (2005), the number of cases of HIV infections in the country are probably higher that could be imagined. He refuted the officially released data to be underestimating the rate of infection in the country.
McBridge William argued that contrary to the officially identified and reported cases of infections that were reported to be around eight thousand towards the end of the year 2003, actual estimates of infections could be rated at about thirty thousand. The claim should however not be used to discredit the country’s official data as a number of people are infected but are not yet tested.
Statistical analysis giving a projection of data would therefore most certainly conflict with official data that gives the exact number of people tested and found to be positive.
Data collected in the year 2001 also revealed higher rates of association of the disease to complications and cases that were related to tuberculosis, female prostitution and sexually transmitted disease that recorded about nineteen, seventeen and nine percent AIDS infections respectively (McBridge, 2005, p. 1).
Other reports as indicated by Cullen Trevor showed that the spread of the epidemic is still on the rise as higher values were estimated in the year 2004. Reports indicated a two percent infection of the country’s total population at the time.
Trend in increased rate of infection led to a prediction that the country was faced with a threat of high infection rates as had been registered in parts of Africa where rates of as high as twenty five percent had been reported.
High rates of multiple sex partners were still registered by the year 2004 with about fifty percent of men in the sexually active age bracket ranging from about twenty years to forty five years having sex with multiple partners (Cullen, 2006, p. 1).
Aids in rural New Guinea
People in rural areas of New Guinea were by the year 2004 were not well educated about the AIDS epidemic. A high level of ignorance over the disease was realized in a research that was conducted on condom use and what people thought about the disease.
A significant number of people, for example, were reported not to have been aware of the exact causes of the disease. Some people actually believed that AIDS was caused through bites by insects, sharing of items and even personal contact with an infected person.
Some respondents also claimed that a sexual intercourse with an infected person can only lead to an infection in event of repeated interactions. About twenty percent of men who were interviewed had this opinion (Dundo and Wilde, 2007, p. 3).
The population in rural areas also revealed a level of discomfort towards condom usage. An interaction with a group of Christian women revealed to the researchers that the women were greatly opposed to the idea of using condoms based on religious teachings.
It was also realized that increased movements of people from one place to another, especially men who travel in search of jobs was also a factor to the spread of aids in rural areas with extension to urban areas where these people would travel to (Dundo and Wilde, 2007, p. 3).
Data that was released by the United Nations program on AIDS confirmed the fact that by the year 2007, the trend in HIV/AIDS prevalence had shifted with the disease being felt more in rural areas more than it was in the urban regions. The number fresh infections were also noted to have increased in the year.
This would be in line with previously published reports that the rural areas had been experiencing higher rates of infections and thus a general increase in the country would as well reflect an increase in the rate of infection by the disease in rural areas (USAID, 2010, p. 2).
Poor transport and communication network in New Guinea as is adversely felt in the country’s rural areas has significantly limited efforts to control the rising number of reported cases of infections in the areas.
Issues such as “awareness rising, condom distribution, counseling, testing and provision of care for people living with AIDS” (VSO, 2011, p. 1) have been identified problems following poor infrastructure that has made it difficult to avail services, personnel and even the anti retroviral drugs to people in the rural areas (VSO, 2011, p. 1).
Poor education of the youth on sex was also reported in the country’s rural areas with parents shying away from taking responsibility to talk to their children about sexual behavior (VSO, 2011, p. 1).
A large population of the country especially in the rural areas is at risk of illiteracy as well as poor health services that increases risks of contracting HIV/ AIDS following the poor infrastructure in the country.
Only regions along the country’s coast are sufficiently supplied with reliable water transport while the inland rural areas are poorly serviced with some regions entirely depending on rivers for transportation as there are either no roads or the available road networks are inaccessible due to poor management.
This poor network is a hindrance to the war to curb the AIDS epidemic (World Bank, 2011, p. 1). The prevalence in the country’s rural areas can also be attributed to the economic activities in the regions such as mining.
A poor provision of health services that was realized in the 1990s was also a factor towards the spread of the disease in the rural areas by increasing vulnerability of people to the epidemic (Felicity, Knipe and Aggleton, 2010, p. 177).
Aids in urban New Guinea
Though the epidemic has been reported to be highly spreading in the rural areas, the urban areas are still subject to the epidemic. The prevalence rate in the country’s urban areas was reported to be more than three percent in the year 2006.
Some of the factors that contributed to this level of preference include “early sexual initiation, a common practice of concurrent sexual partnerships, high rates of transactional sex, very low rates of condom use and wide spread physical and sexual violence against women” (United Nations, n.d., p. 61).
Studies that were conducted in semi urban areas indicated levels of commercial sex with a higher involvement of women as compared to men at fifty five and about thirty six percent respectively.
Practices such as homosexuality among men and poor usage of condoms that was reported to be better in men as compared to women was also reported to be significant in the near urban set ups (United Nations, n.d. , p. 62).
The youth in the urban area are identified to be at high risks of infection with the AIDS epidemic. As the overall prevalence rate in Port Moresby, according to the city’s general hospital’s data, was rated at bellow two percent in the year 2004, expectant teen agers registered about ten percent prevalence rate in the same year.
Whether these girls had interactions with their peers or with older men, the overall result is that they will further interact with their peers and most likely risk the youth in general (World Bank, 2007, p. 83).
Aids according to gender
There has been a significant relationship between vulnerability to AIDS infection and gender in the New Guinea. Women forms a larger percentage of those infected with the epidemic in the country.
Though different reasons may be available in other parts of the world, women in Papua New Guinea believe that their vulnerability to the disease is a result of the irresponsible and risky sexual behavior that their men practice.
Behaviors which majorly consist of unprotected extra marital sex were pointed out to be factors. This could be due to engagement of men with commercial sex female workers (UN and ESCAP, 2010, p. 45).
The gender disparity in terms of levels of infections is also attributable to the country’s social set up which is male dominated. Cases of marriages between young women and relatively older men have for example explained the high rates of infection between the two groups.
This age difference in marriage together with male dominance thus contributes to unquestionable adultery among men who in turn infect their multiple sex partners (Butt and Richard, 2008, p. 62).
The higher vulnerability in women is also explained through other number of factors such as “legal, social and economic disadvantages” that are encountered by the female gender in general (UNDP, 2005, p. 3). Higher rates of infections are further identified with younger women.
The major factor in the gender biased records as realized in the country is based on the values of the society that has left women with no choice but to be submissive to their men regardless of the dangers that they may be subjected to.
Men therefore with this respect take advantage of younger women, whom they can easily suppress, marry them and then risk their lives through infection. Economic situations also play a role in the gender biased infection rates. Being an underdeveloped country, with high unemployment rates and poverty levels, women are rendered powerless as they depend on their men for financial support.
Men who are relatively financially stable are also characterized with offering money or goods in exchange for sex with women who at the same time are in need of such offers.
It is for example reported that the number of young women in the age bracket of between fifteen up to about twenty five who are infected with HIV/ AIDS are at least twice as high as the number of males in the corresponding age bracket (UNDP, 2005, p. 4).
Future projections of trends in infection
Papua New Guinea being rich in unexploited minerals and other resources such as timber has contributed to significant movement of people in the course of economic activities. Such movements have even attracted foreigners into the country for the exploitation of the country’s resources.
Such increased movements and immigration into a region have been significantly characterized with increased rates of infections as these people will tend to sexually interact with people in the new environment. They then end up either being infected or infecting other people. Continued movements thus indicate further increase in reported infections in future (Island, 2010, p. 1).
The trend of HIV infections in the country which has been increasing is expected to continue in the future. Factors in the country which includes “social, economic and political realities” have been identified to possibly increase the dominance of the HIV epidemic.
It has been warned that unless effective measures are taken by stakeholders, the epidemic will be overwhelmingly felt in future (HIV policy, n.d., p. 2). This is however in line with the general observed trend of infection in developing countries which has called for stronger control measures against the disease (FHI, 2011, p. 1).
The trend in percentage composition of the country’s number of infections with respect to the pacific region has also been on the rise from about twenty percent in 1989 to more that ninety five percent in 2007. The trend can thus be expected to continue rising (Evidence, 2011, p. 1).
Impacts of aids in Papua New Guinea
One of the direct impacts of HIV infections is the effects that it has on economies. Once a person has been infected by the disease, there is the first impact of body weakness especially when the person is bed ridden. Economic activities of the affected individual will consequently be affected at the time hence reducing income.
The withdrawal of individuals from work due to sickness is then transferred to the country’s economy. HIV infections therefore have adverse economic effects on the people who are infected as well as those who are affected. This is realized through reduced income and increased expenditure in medical costs.
Gross domestic products of individual countries have also significantly reflected impacts of the epidemic. Significant fall in countries’ gross domestic products in the range of 0.3 to four percent have for example been reported from the global perspective. New Guinea has not been an exception (Hauquitz, 2004, p. 2).
There are also expected social effects of the epidemic in the country. With increasing rates of infections that had been projected to even reach a ten percent mark in future, there will be a social burden following the loss of relatives to death due to the AIDS. A level of social strain is also expected to increase as more number of people will require attention following their sickness (Content, 2006, p. 295).
The economic impacts of infections are also directly transferred to other sectors of the country’s economy. The health sector is for example strained by increased demand for medical services due to increased infections. Education system is also affected by the psychological effects that students have when they are either infected or affected by the disease (Australia, 2006, p. 49).
HIV/AIDS is a globally recognized epidemic that was first realized in early 1980s. The disease however took a long time before being realized in Papua New Guinea.
It also took a long time to start spreading in the country. Its spread however took a twist as it attained a high rate with more vulnerability being realized among women. Alarmingly increasing trends in infection rates have been reported with a possibility of adverse impacts if sufficient and drastic measures are not taken to control the epidemic.
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