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July 25, 2021
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Report Reveals STIs Popular Among Female Sex Workers, Men of Diverse Sexuality and Transgenders

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By Staycey Yalo – EMTV News, Port Moresby

A study in Papua New Guinea has revealed that Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are high among female sex workers, men of diverse sexualities, and trans-genders, with high incidences of stigma, discrimination, and violence which keeps them from accessing health care and services.

The study, Kaunim Mi Tu, which was conducted in Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen, was launched on Tuesday, May 15 and is said to be the first comprehensive integrated bio-behavior survey ever done in PNG.

An integrated bio-behavioral survey (IBBS) of women and girls who sell and exchange sex (FSW), and men who have sex with men and transgender women was conducted in June last year. The results showed that the key population face stigma and discrimination in the absence of an enabling environment and appropriate legislation. The research was conducted by PNG Institute of Medical Research, Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with local communities.

Using respondent-driven sampling (RDS) to recruit participants, Kaunim Mi Tu revealed that the key population does not seek healthcare, do not get tested for HIV or STIs, thus increasing risks of the transmission. They also face violence from police, clients and by individuals in communities because of their sexual practices, thus increasing their vulnerability to STIs.

The report states that almost half of the MSM/TG in Port Moresby and Lae felt the need to hide their sexual practices or gender identity when accessing health services. One in three reported feeling ashamed of them, based on their sexual practices or gender identity. With awareness of HIV Infection currently below the UNAIDS goal of 90%, the response to HIV in PNG is far from over and the Kaunim Mi Tu provides a baseline for interventions to curb HIV & AIDS in the country.

PNG’s Minister responsible for Health, Sir Puka Temu, says he will be tabling the report in parliament, stating that an evidence-based report was vital for the government to plan appropriately. During the research that was carried out in the three cities, female sex workers, transgender and men of diverse sexualities’ access to STI and TB testing, consultations and referrals were also recorded.

Dr. Kelly Hanku says an Integrated STI testing and treatment into HIV services can attract more people at risk for HIV prevention, testing, and treatment. This, she added, is a crucial moment in the HIV epidemic in PNG where, without increased attention and support, the epidemic will worsen.

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