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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Disease Rising in Pregnant Women

September 4, 2003
Papua New Guinea Post-Courier (09.04.03) - Thursday, September

HIV/AIDS cases among pregnant women in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, have increased tenfold since 1994, rising from 0.08 percent to 0.8 percent in 2002.

This was the grim message from Professor Glen Mola of the University of PNG at a weeklong medical symposium in Mt. Hagen. Citing the epidemic's spread in sub-Saharan Africa, Mola said it is urgent to identify risk behaviors and institute measures to modify them.

In his paper titled "Awareness and Attitudes Toward HIV Among Pregnant Women at the Antenatal Clinic, Port Moresby General Hospital," Mola said evaluating current awareness and attitudes toward HIV is critical. Results from interviewing 122 women at the antenatal clinic at PMGH showed that four out 122 women did not know about HIV; 97 percent knew HIV was spread through sexual contact; 96 percent knew about mother- to-child transmission; and 69 percent knew about infection through breast feeding.

However, Mola said there were also many misconceptions about HIV, including beliefs that the virus could be spread by mosquitoes and by caring for an AIDS patient. Just 51 percent of women with little or no education knew that HIV was not spread by caring for an AIDS patient.

A majority of women received information about HIV through the media, and Mola said AIDS campaigns have succeeded in making women aware of HIV as an STD.

"However, the high frequency of misconceptions makes it probable that patients are stigmatized," Mola said. "This is particularly true for the low educated women," he added.

Improving the general level of education of both men and women, encouraging women to have more control over their sexuality, and increasing women's status in society are some of the tools to help more effectively fight HIV, said Mola.