|Photo: File photo: a nurse informs a patient that she has contracted AIDS from her husband at Mount Hagen General Hospital, PNG (AFP PHOTO / FILES / Torsten BLACKWOOD)|
Papua New Guinea's largest oil producer is calling on the corporate sector to commit to regional health projects and embrace public-private partnerships for development.Oil Search is working with PNG's national Department of Health to combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and TB in local communities.
Managing Director Peter Botten is attending the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne to encourage other corporations to do the same.
"Part of being here is trying to mobilise the corporate sector and look at successful public-private partnerships to help deliver services to the people," he told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific.
"There is a moral compunction when you see people dying, outside your operations to try and do something about it but theres also a compelling business model to actually become involved and help the government in delivering these services.
"Theres growing support for these sorts of programs in the corporate sector and certainly from our shareholders"
Oil Search's Health Foundation runs scores of clinics across five provinces, providing services to many thousands of people.
The company runs programs for HIV treatment, maternal health, ART distribution, malaria and TB in conjunction with the government and NGOs.
Mr Botten says the program grew from internal health programs for Oil Search employees.
"When you address the health of your people and they come from the local communities we immediately extrapolate that exercise out into those communities and they're dealing with malaria, they're dealing with HIV, so it was a natural extension from our own health programs," he said.
Oil Search controls more than 60 per cent of PNG's oil and gas assets.
He says given the amount of revenue raised by LNG production, it has become an expectation among locals that funds should be put into benefitting the community.
"Especially in the remote areas of the country, they expect to see schools, hospitals, roads, power, and if you don't start addressing those issues int the future you're going to have problems with community dislocation and potential security issues," he said.
In May, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill sought a loan to purchase shares in Oil Search, after having to relinquish the country's 14 per cent stake in March.
PNG's government currently has a 0.8 per cent stake in Oil Search and is its 10th largest shareholder.
Mr Botten says the cooperation of private and public sectors has mutual benefit.
"Working with the department of health and others we can leverage our skills from all sides, and deliver much better outcomes than just on our own," he said.
People living with HIV in PNG feel stigma and face strong discrimination.
Mr Botten says his corporation has to play a role in changing this.
"Everywhere you go, unfortunately, there is stigma and largely ignorance about HIV/AIDS," he said.
"The best thing we can do is go out and explain the disease go and explain it in the communities, explain it in the churches, explain it [to] the various stakeholders and that way people can be seen as human beings rather than something with an issue and that's where we have to play a role."