GONE are the days when HIV and AIDS issues were swept under the carpet to be dealt with by someone other than the community and society as a whole.
Times have changed and even the President of Fiji is openly addressing the issue of HIV and AIDS saying a multi-faceted approach was needed in the Pacific region.
This week, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau made a special visit to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial High School in Suva to launch the HIV and AIDS awareness week.
The move was one that sent ripples of appreciation through the school community as mentioned by the school principal Kailash Rajput.
Speaking to Kaila!, Mrs Rajput said the launch of HIV and AIDS awareness week allowed for open discussion on the issues which would otherwise be a taboo topic in most households.
"It's a very important topic and one that would really educate our students and staff," she said.
"HIV and AIDS awareness is part of our curriculum ‘Family Life'. Teachers would incorporate lessons on HIV and AIDS or other issues like drugs and substance abuse during the year and in between lessons when exams are over.
"In some households, these topics are not openly discussed. Some parents find it hard to talk to their children about such issues.
"For us, to have the president of our country share his message on HIV and AIDS was very encouraging.
"He was very clear and open about the topic - it sent out positive vibes."
In a statement from the Ministry of Information, Ratu Epeli said his presence to advocate on HIV and AIDS as a parent was to ‘avoid getting HIV and AIDS'.
"AIDS response in the Asia Pacific region has reached a critical juncture.
"Everyone is familiar with the topic of HIV/AIDS. Today, we have a chance to end this epidemic through zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths," Ratu Epeli said.
"Countries must make an increased impact on HIV prevention as a top priority.
"We should advance human rights and gender equality, have a committed political leadership, strong national ownership and partnership and everyone should be included in this advocacy of HIV/AIDS."
He told students and staff that family values were important, to avoid early sex, use condoms and be responsible.
A strong advocate and champion on HIV, Ratu Epeli served as a UNAIDS ambassador to the Pacific. He was actively involved in promoting a strong AIDS response in the region.
In June 2011, Ratu Epeli called for the elimination of new HIV infections among children and zero discrimination against people living with HIV at the United Nations high level meeting on AIDS.