PRESIDENT Ratu Epeli Nailatikau is in Bankok, Thailand attending a high level United Nations Conference on combating AIDS in the Asia Pacific region.
According to the Information Ministry, Ratu Epeli is attending the conference, which started on Tuesday, as a Pacific Ambassador for AIDS.
The three-day conference which opened at the Bangkok headquarters of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), marks the first time government leaders, senior officials, civil society representatives and people living with HIV in 34 Asia-Pacific countries are meeting in a single forum to address the epidemic in the region.
The Asia-Pacific region has witnessed widespread gains in combating the spread of HIV, but experts at a UN meeting were told the epidemic is still outpacing the region's efforts against new infections.
"The Asia-Pacific region has seen impressive gains in addressing HIV," said ESCAP executive secretary Noeleen Heyzer.
Over the past decade, the Asia-Pacific has seen a 20 per cent drop in HIV infection rates and over one million people in the region obtained access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment which also saw a decline in the the incidence of HIV among children below the age of 15.
However, while new infections in high HIV-prevalence countries such as India and Thailand tapered off between 2001 and 2009, infections in low HIV-prevalence countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines increased by 25 per cent over the same period.
"To move us closer towards the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, we must ensure sustainable and high-impact responses by explicitly and meaningfully addressing HIV within the broader inclusive development agenda of the Asia-Pacific region," Dr Heyzer added.
"For the first time in history we have the possibility to end AIDS and Asia-Pacific nations have shown we can lead the world in reducing infections, increasing treatment and making an impact. But we cannot ignore the challenges our region faces and how these can jeopardise our ability to progress."