PNG focus group

NHMRC Ideas Grant awarded to project working to end AIDS in PNG

News | Published on 15 Dec 2023

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded $1.26 million to a project working to end AIDS in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The Kirby Institute’s Scientia Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku, leader of the Global Health Equity and Justice Research Group, will lead the project and a diverse team of collaborators from Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The project, which will take place in two regions in Papua New Guinea, will work with communities at risk of HIV and other infectious diseases to co-design approaches to prevent and test for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B. HIV self and assisted self-testing and community distribution of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis will be offered. Pregnant women living with HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B will also be linked into antenatal care, to prevent the transmission of these infections to their babies; rates of both HIV and hepatitis B of are amongst the highest globally, with congenital syphilis on the rise.

“PNG has the highest burden of HIV in the Pacific. It also has one of the highest rates of mother to child transmission of HIV, coupled with very low rates of antenatal attendance and HIV testing of pregnant women,” says A/Prof Kelly-Hanku. “Communities are one of PNG’s greatest strengths and in this project we will work with them to co-design and deliver community-led services to reach those who do not engage in facility-based services. Embodying the theme of this year's World AIDS Day, we will support communities to lead.”

A/Prof Kelly-Hanku has been conducting interdisciplinary research with communities most affected by HIV in PNG for over 15 years, including with female sex workers, transgender people, gay and other men who have sex with men, and others at risk of HIV including pregnant women. This project brings together a team of long term collaborators from Papua New Guinea including Dr Janet Gare, Dr Pamela Toliman, Agnes Mek and Ruthy Boli from the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR), Dr Nano Gideon from the PNG National Department of Health and Australian colleagues including Dr Jamee Newland, Dr Sujith Kumar Prankumar, Professor Andrew Vallely, and Dr Lisa Vallely from the Kirby Institute and Associate Professor Steve Bell from the Burnet Institute.