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Global Fund Executive Director visits Papua New Guinea

16 July 2008

Port Moresby – The Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr Michel Kazatchkine, who is visiting Papua New Guinea 15-17 July, today met with the Honorable Sasa Zibe, Minister of Health and HIV/AIDS and Lady Roslyn Morauta, Chair of the Papua New Guinea Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). The CCM is the entity that is set up to help organize and submit grant applications to the Global Fund and monitor their implementation.

During his visit, Dr Kazatchkine will also meet with implementation partners to discuss progress of national disease programs funded by the Global Fund. The Global Fund is currently supporting programs fighting malaria, HIV and tuberculosis in the country worth a total commitment of more than US$ 42 million.

At the meeting, Dr Kazatchkine commended Papua New Guinea’s collaborative approach with all partners in laying the foundations for implementation of all three programs fighting the three diseases, funded by the Global Fund.

“There has been a more than five-fold increase in people receiving HIV counseling and testing from 2005 when 15,000 people had received these services, to almost 82,000 people by March 2008,” said Dr Kazatchkine. “The number of people living with HIV/AIDS accessing antiretroviral treatment has also increased significantly from under 200 in 2005 to more than 2,800 by March 2008. These are major achievements and I recognize the hard work done in Papua New Guinea that has made this possible."

The Global Fund grant is supporting Papua New Guinea’s fight against tuberculosis (TB) by funding purchase of high quality patient drug kits for the treatment of 9,000 patients by the end of this year. A further 9,000 patients will be supported in 2009. The Global Fund-supported malaria program has already provided 38% of all house holds in the country with at least one Long-Lasting Insecticide Treated net, protecting people who sleep under it from contracting the disease.

Dr Kazatchkine also welcomed the recent submission by the Country Coordinating Mechanism to the Global Fund of a funding proposal for malaria. “Papua New Guinea continues to suffer from a high malaria disease burden. The disease is the second leading cause of death in children and the second leading cause of admissions to health facilities. We hope that the proposal is robust, enabling funding to be made available”.

Dr Kazatchkine praised Papua New Guinea leaders for facing up to the challenges, but urged greater urgency, responsibility and commitment at all levels to assist the country to rapidly scale up prevention and treatment of the three diseases. “The pace of program implementation is not keeping up with the rapid spread of HIV and TB. More needs to be done, urgently, at all implementation levels, otherwise Papua New Guinea risks significant loss of life and long term development setbacks. More immediately, Global Fund grant funds committed may be lost.”

Papua New Guinea is facing a generalized HIV epidemic, with the fastest rate of transmission amongst young people, particularly women. People whose immune systems are compromised with HIV are many times more susceptible to contracting tuberculosis; another disease that continues to claim the lives of many people living in Papua New Guinea. The emergence of TB drug resistance represents an urgent health issue.

Dr Kazatchkine also applauded Minister Zibe’s speaking out against gender-based violence and the reasons underlying maternal mortality, which has more than doubled in the last ten years in Papua New Guinea. “More must be done to provide pregnant women with access to antenatal care, and leaders at all levels should work together to promote gender equality. It is in this context that our fight against HIV, TB and malaria must be implemented.”

To date, the Global Fund has committed US$ 10.7 billion to more than 550 programs in 136 countries to support aggressive interventions against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Programs supported by the Global Fund have provided AIDS treatment for 1.75 million people, TB treatment for 3.9 million people, and by distributing 59 million insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria worldwide.

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