ILLICIT sexual practices have led to an increase in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Fiji.
And in the first six months of this year, the Ministry of Health has reported 30 new infections, taking the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country to 449.
Revealing this during the media launch of the World AIDS Day 2012 at the Government House yesterday, President and Fiji's special representative for HIV/AIDS Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said the figures were expected to further increase by the end of this year.
"Fiji's latest HIV statistics continues to rise and to remind us very starkly of the need to continue to support the fight against HIV/AIDS," he said.
Ratu Epeli said in 2010, male to male transmission was three per cent and seven per cent of infections of mother to child transmission.
"Over 70 per cent of the total was reported to be through heterosexual transmissions and the epidemic evidently affecting our young people with 50 per cent falling within the age group of 15-29," he said.
He said the youths, bulk of the country's labour force, were the most sexually active and most vulnerable.
"This is of great concern especially with sexually transmitted infections still very much high and the failure to use protection, that is, the use of condoms."
In addition, 60 to 70 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases are reported annually in the Central and Eastern divisions followed by Western and the Northern divisions.
Ratu Epeli said in the effort to prevent the mother to child transmission of HIV at ante-natal clinics, a report of 0.02 per cent HIV cases was recorded from 2008 to 2010 with an increase to 0.08 per cent in 2010.
"You will all agree with me that 0.08 per cent is 0.08 per cent too many."
"Strategies are in place to ensure that HIV negative pregnant women and their partners stay negative during the current or future pregnancies."
Ratu Epeli said with this year's theme, Zero New Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero Aids related Deaths; Fiji will focus its campaign on working towards zero new infection.
"The focus is a challenging goal that demands strategic planning, direct interventions and aggressive campaigns that inform our people of this merciless disease."
He said Fiji's national strategic plan for HIV and sexually transmitted infections would work towards reducing sexual transmission by 50 per cent, achieve zero related deaths and reduce stigma and discrimination.