People living in the Torres Strait Island region are a priority population in this strategy. There is a continuing potential risk of HIV entering communities in the region because of the proximity, cultural, familial and trade connections to PNG, which now has the Pacific region’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS.
Under the treaty arrangements Australia has with PNG, the importance of protecting the traditional way of life and the livelihood of Torres Strait Islanders and Papua New Guineans living in the coastal area adjacent to Torres Strait is recognised and protocols exist for the conduct of the relationship between Australia and PNG in the region. The movement of people under the treaty arrangements has steadily increased in recent years. The three main health-related concerns resulting from this are:
- increases in communicable diseases resulting from the free movement of traditional visitors within and around the area known as the protected zone
- the pressure on healthcare facilities in the Torres Strait, resulting from such movement
- the limited access to, and poor standards of, health service facilities in PNG’s Western Province.