In commemoration of World AIDS Day 2020, the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), formally handed over nearly 19,000, 90-day doses of tenofovir-lamivudine-dolutegravir (TLD) antiretroviral (ART) medicines to support the Government of Papua New Guinea’s fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Monday November 30,2020. Building on the 2020 theme of World AIDS Day, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”, this donation reflects the U.S. government’s strong commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic globally.
U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands, Erin E. McKee, turned over the ART medicines, valued at 1.5 million Kina, to the Secretary of the National Department of Health (NDoH), Dr. Osborne Liko, in support of the rollout of the new TLD regimen in the National Capital District (NCD) and the country. Ambassador McKee also handed over two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines — used to measure HIV viral load in people living with HIV — to boost PNG’s diagnostic capacity and improve overall epidemic response in PNG.
“Papua New Guinea has made and continues to make great strides to address HIV/AIDS. Yet there is still much to be done—and much we can do together. Since 2004, the United States has been a steadfast partner in preventing, treating, and mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in PNG . . . The U.S. government will continue to stand with the government and people of PNG. We will endure in our combined effort to eliminate HIV/AIDS and ensure that all people living with HIV receive treatment, have access to comprehensive services, and lead full and productive lives free from stigma,” Ambassador McKee said.
Through its five-year, 17.2 million U.S. dollar HIV Support in Papua New Guinea Activity, USAID has been working with government counterparts and other agencies to implement the HIV/AIDS response in NCD aimed at strengthening PNG’s HIV/AIDS interventions.
In partnership with the Global Fund and other partners, the USAID project will continue to train and mentor clinic staff on the transition to the TLD drug regimen for people living with HIV (PLHIV), including providing support to the estimated 22,000 eligible PLHIV that have already been transitioned.
The donation of the two PCR machines will support viral load testing in the NCD and Goroka, allowing doctors to follow the HIV infection amongst their patients, understand how well treatment is working, and guide treatment choices. The PCR machines allow the NDoH to increase viral load (VL) testing, supporting PNG’s pursuit of the global 95-95-95 HIV goals.
The donation reflects the latest in a long history of technical assistance provided by the U.S. government since 2013, when the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) began working with FHI 360 and the NDoH. It also highlights PEPFAR’s ongoing efforts toward achieving inclusive, resilient, and sustainable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in PNG. Over the past 20 years, the United States has invested more than 108 million U.S. dollars in Papua New Guinea, including more than 52 million U.S. dollars in health initiatives.