The Life Drama Project makes use of applied theatre & performance techniques to promote sexual health & wellbeing in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and Northern Australia.


1.3.2 Transmission

HIV is transmitted in one of three ways:

  • unprotected sex with a person who is HIV positive
  • transmission from mother to child during birth or breastfeeding
  • body fluids containing the HIV virus enter the body (eg. through sharing needles or razors)

HIV in Papua New Guinea is usually transmitted by heterosexual sex (84%). Those most at risk include sex workers, their clients, and the partners of clients. In 2006, HIV prevalence was 14% among female sex workers in Port Moresby.

Men are at high risk of contracting HIV due to behaviours such as:

  • having sex with many partners when receiving money, eg. payment when a crop is sold
  • having sex with many partners following initiation
  • having sex with strangers when away from home, eg. on mine sites, in logging camps, travelling for work

Women are at high risk of contracting HIV when they exchange sex for money, goods, or both. A 2006 study found that 55% of women interviewed had exchanged sex for money or goods, and 36% of men interviewed had paid for sex. Women are also at risk of contracting HIV from husbands who have been having sex with multiple partners.

The spread of HIV has typically occurred in cities and towns, around mining and logging sites, and along transport routes.

Some of the reasons for the growing HIV epidemic in PNG are:

  • proximity to Papua, Indonesia, which has the highest HIV prevalence in Indonesia (4%)
  • low use of condoms (only 24% of young men and 13% of young women in Port Moresby use condoms)
  • high proportion of the population at reproductive age
  • average age at sexual debut of 15 years for both sexes
  • risk behaviours including multiple partner relationships, high rats of transactional sex, and sexual violence against women
  • low rates of knowledge about HIV transmission and prevention
  • high levels of urban migration have broken down traditional methods of social control
  • stigma associated with HIV prevents people seeking testing and treatment
  • it is common for men to blame women for the epidemic, and therefore not to take responsibility for preventing transmission eg. by reducing number of partners or using condoms
  • high rates of sexually transmitted illnesses make people more vulnerable to contracting HIV
  • high rates of tuberculosis increase the risk of contracting HIV, and high rates of co-infection (HIV and tuberculosis) increase the difficulty of treating both diseases
  • national response is challenged by the large number of cultural and linguistic groups, geographical difficulties, and socioeconomic conditions associated with poverty and unemployment