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Time Right To Halt Hiv/Aids Spread In The Pacific

Time Right To Halt Hiv/Aids Spread In The Pacific

19 May, 2004

New money to fight HIV/AIDS in the Pacific is well timed with a greater commitment to fighting the disease now being demonstrated by Pacific church leaders.

Family Planning Association Executive Director, Dr Gill Greer, says the recent apology by Pacific church leaders to HIV positive people for contributing to their pain and suffering will create the climate of willingness and understanding needed to take a realistic approach in fighting the disease and hopefully to understanding the need for sexuality education.

The apology was made at a recent HIV/AIDS conference in Australia and it acknowledged that the church had isolated people with HIV/AIDS and had used biblical texts to oppress, exclude, persecute and stigmatise HIV positive people.

Dr Greer said this shift in perspective, in addition to the further $3 million that the New Zealand Government has committed to fight HIV/AIDS and improve reproductive health in the Pacific, created an environment in which meaningful progress could be made. $1 million will go to the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS, $1 million to the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and $1 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“We know that targeted prevention programmes work and Thailand and Cambodia offer good examples of what can be achieved. Now is the time to act.

“In the early 1990s both of these countries identified sex work as a key source of new infections and mounted pragmatic and well funded campaigns aimed at clients and sex workers that encouraged 100 percent condom use.

“As a result Chlamydia and HIV prevalence rates have fallen dramatically in Thailand.”

Dr Greer said HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the Pacific were increasing and there was only a very small window of opportunity to turn this situation around.

“This additional funding is welcomed because Asia shows that early intervention programmes can have such a positive impact and UNFPA already works effectively with NGOs in the Pacific and New Zealand in delivering integrated programmes.

“What is now evident in confronting HIV/AIDS is that a wide multi-pronged approach involving reproductive health, is needed to target the mainstream population in the Pacific as it is that part of the population that HIV/AIDS is affecting. At particular risk are wives who believe their husbands to be monogamous.”

Dr Greer said the recent study tour to Asia by members of the New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development and Pacific Members of Parliament, to look at the Thailand and Cambodian experiences, highlighted that there is hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS and that increased investment in prevention programmes does work.

ENDS

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