HIV infections increase in Fiji

A REPORT released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has shown that new HIV infections in Fiji have risen from 33 in 2010 to 64 in 2014.

The report — titled How AIDS changed everything — released in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development last week, noted that the figure was small compared with the Asia-Pacific’s total figure of 340,000 new infections recorded last year.

But according to UNAIDS Pacific country director Roberto Campos, these figures showed the need for increased education on HIV prevention that should be taken into account by policy-makers.

“There are concerning signs, however, that HIV prevention efforts need to be strengthened across the region as this number of new HIV infections rose by 3 per cent between 2010 and 2014,” Mr Campos said in a statement responding to the report, adding this was exactly the case in Fiji.

Increased access to HIV testing in public health facilities, including antenatal clinics, was also an explanation for the noted increase in cases of infection, the statement noted. However, the report showed that in the Pacific region, HIV testing among sex workers was still worryingly low with figures of only 50 per cent being tested in nine of 14 countries.

Fiji is ranked seventh out of 20 Pacific region countries for prevalence of HIV among sex workers.

In terms of access to antiretroviral therapy coverage among adults living with HIV, Mr Campos said Fiji and Papua New Guinea ranked in the intermediate group with 25 to 49 per cent coverage.

He said no data was available for other Pacific countries.

He said there was also the focus on the need to end the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, and echoed the report’s call for an end to legal restrictions on travel for sufferers, illegality of transmission and illegality of concealing positive-status, which many countries in the Pacific region had legalised.

“Considering that one of the UNAIDS strategy goals is exactly to end HIV-related discrimination, the report urges for the abolishment of such outdated laws and regulations, and at the same time, that it pushes for a strong an immediate countries’ financial commitment to end AIDS in 2030, as part of the social development goals.”