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.