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NZ share impact of HIV epidemic in Pacific

Monday 29 August 2005

New Zealand will share impact of HIV epidemic in the Pacific

New Zealand will not be isolated from the impact of a surge in HIV in our neighbouring Pacific nations, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation warns.

The Foundation endorses comments in a report released today by the AIDS Epidemiology Group at Otago University, which describes the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Pacific as a “dangerously powerful storm forming offshore”.

“Our neighbours in the Pacific are our whanau, friends, business partners and customers, and our holiday hosts,” says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. “Many Pacific people come here for the same reasons. There is constant social interchange, and that includes connection at the sexual level. What happens in the Pacific is, therefore, our shared concern. If HIV explodes among our neighbours there is absolutely no doubt that it will impact on the sexual health of New Zealanders also, particularly our resident Pasifika communities.”

“New Zealand must be involved in encouraging Pacific leaders in Government, community and the church to speak up about HIV and take proactive and positive steps towards raising HIV/AIDS awareness, talking honestly and openly about sexual health issues, and ending discrimination of people living with HIV.”

The report is a timely reminder that the pending Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Conference to be held in Auckland on October 25-28 is of vital importance to the region.

“This conference is a rare opportunity for New Zealand and Pacific region leaders, health workers, HIV specialists, and people living with or affected by HIV to get together to raise awareness, build on the strategies in place for dealing with HIV in our region and to give Pacific people living with HIV a voice.”

The conference has received significant Aid agency sponsorship support (such as Asia Development Bank, NZAID, AUSAID, UNICEF and UNAIDS), which is going to allow a strong community-level and indigenous voice to be present from throughout the Pacific, particularly people living with HIV whose voices are rarely heard in the Pacific where misunderstanding, judgement and discrimination is still a major issue.

“It is when communities talk openly and honestly about sexuality and HIV that we achieve the most success in controlling this epidemic,” Ms Le Mesurier says.

ENDS


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