THE United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has urged Pacific island nations to strengthen all HIV/ AIDS prevention services.
It has also called on stakeholders to pay necessary attention to the prevention of transmission of the deadly virus from mother to child.
Speaking at the closing of a week-long workshop on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PTMCT), at the Mocambo Hotel in Nadi, UNICEF's PTMCT Officer Pacific, Fatuma Dayib said despite a relatively low prevalence of HIV in the Pacific, there was an urgency to strengthen prevention services.
Ms Dayib said the rapid political, economic and social change, highly mobile populations, high rates of STIs and low levels of health and sex education in the Pacific gave the region the requisite conditions of facilitating a catastrophic HIV epidemic.
But Ms Dayib said with a high level of commitment and ability to draw upon the knowledge and experience of the international community, the Pacific could still avert a generalised HIV epidemic. She said while children had to become a common concern with the number of paediatric AIDS cases rising in the Pacific, it was sad to see that the HIV epidemic in the Pacific had taken on the face of a woman.
"Of the nearly 40 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2006, 2.3 million were children under the age of three. Less than five per cent of children who need treatment have access to such treatment globally," Ms Dayib said.