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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 July 2006, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Australia warned of Aids spread
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Cell infected with HIV
Some 16,000 people are suffering from HIV and Aids in Papua New Guinea
Australia is being urged to upgrade health services in the Torres Strait amid fears that HIV and Aids could spread from neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

Community leaders have urged Canberra to introduce more stringent border controls.

It is only a short boat ride between southern parts of Papua New Guinea and Australian territories in the Torres Strait.

The Australian island of Saibai is just four kilometres from Papua New Guinea, which has the highest rates of HIV and Aids in the South Pacific.

Thousands of people make the short journey across that part of the Torres Strait every year. Community leaders on Saibai have been urging the Australian government to do more to make sure that HIV and Aids do not spread across the border.

Facing epidemic

Health Minister Tony Abbott has been supportive of plans to bring in tougher screening of visitors arriving from Papua New Guinea.

Medical services on Saibai island are also likely to be upgraded.

The residents of this tiny Australian territory in the Torres Strait have good reason to be nervous.

Just a short distance away their neighbours in Papua New Guinea are facing an epidemic. Official statistics have indicated that about 16,000 people are suffering from HIV and Aids.

Relief agencies believe that the true figure could be 10 times higher.

Shame and disgrace are often heaped upon those caught up in this escalating emergency in Papua New Guinea.

Some patients have reportedly been thrown into rivers to drown or dumped into graves to die.

In the capital, Port Moresby, Aids-related illnesses are the leading cause of death at the main hospital.

On Saibai there have been no reported cases of HIV and Aids so far.

Community leaders have warned that without greater protection, islanders remain vulnerable to the looming threat from across the water.




SEE ALSO
Australian police 'may quit PNG'
13 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
HIV impact: Region-by-region
30 Nov 05 |  Health
Papua New Guinea 'to implode'
14 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country Profile: Papua New Guinea
09 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Papua New Guinea
19 May 03 |  Country profiles

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