THE HIV epidemic in Fiji is not expanding through sex workers, the Integrated Behavioural and Biological Survey (IBBS) and Size Estimation of Sex Workers in Fiji: HIV Prevention Project report revealed.
The report, launched yesterday by the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was the first large-scale quantitative research on sex workers in Fiji which aims to help understand the nature of sex work in Fiji, rates of HIV and STI infection among the sex worker community and their knowledge and behaviour around safer sex practices.
A total of 298 sex workers participated in the IBBS survey with 297 valid surveys for the behavioural survey and 293 valid biological samples for the biological component. This represented just 38 per cent of the total estimated sex worker population in Fiji.
"Just three positive cases of HIV were found suggesting sex workers are not experiencing a concentrated epidemic and that the HIV epidemic in Fiji is not expanding through sex workers," the report stated.
Nadi, the report revealed, had particularly high rates of syphilis and hepatitis B infection with Lautoka. In contrast, Labasa had no cases of hepatitis B and lower rates of syphilis infection, although similar rates of chlamydia to Suva.
Suva has a higher rate of gonorrhoea infection than the other centres. The report stated that transgender sex workers appeared to be at higher risk of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis, while female sex workers had increased risk of chlamydia and gonorrhoea although also high rates of syphilis.
ITaukei sex workers tended to have higher rates of infection of hepatitis B and syphilis, while Fijians of Indian descent had higher rates of chlamydia.
National Advisor Family Health at the Ministry of Health Dr Rachel Devi said the report proved the HIV epidemic in Fiji was not driven by sex workers.
"When you look at HIV and AIDS response globally it was said to be mainly driven by men having sex with men and sex workers and we wanted to know if it was the same for the country," Dr Devi said.
"This study found and told us that sex workers aren't driving the epidemic. "
The report was commissioned by the UNAIDS Pacific Office and Health Ministry with assistance from the FNU.