Pfizer includes Papua New Guinea in AIDS drug program

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. said Monday it will provide free and unlimited supplies of an anti-fungal medication to help treat AIDS patients in Papua New Guinea.

At a joint news conference with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Michael Somare, Pfizer announced it would send free supplies of Diflucan, an anti-fungal medicine used to treat AIDS-related illnesses, to the impoverished Pacific island nation.

Papua New Guinea is facing one of the largest AIDS epidemics in the Asia-Pacific region with an estimated 1.7 percent of the country's adults living with HIV.

It is the only country in the region where the disease has moved into the general population and the only nation the United Nations fears will reach sub-Saharan Africa proportions.

Somare said Pfizer's involvement would help his government fight the deadly disease.

"It's a big problem and we've taken it on ourselves to do everything possible," he told reporters in Brisbane. "Any assistance that we get is greatly appreciated."

Pfizer Australia Managing Director John Young said the first shipment of the drug, worth 80,000 Australian dollars (US$60,265; Ђ50,225), had already arrived in Papua New Guinea and would be distributed by the National Catholic HIV/AIDS Office.

Young said Pfizer's commitment was not a complete solution to Papua New Guinea's "tragic" HIV epidemic.

"No one organization, government or company can solve the problem on its own, but by working together we can save many lives and improve the quality of life for many others while research continues around the world to find a cure," he said in a statement.

Diflucan is not an AIDS medication but is often used to treat opportunistic infections that occur in many AIDS patients, the company said, reports the AP.


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