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Pacific police, UN anti-AIDS programme tackle HIV

Pacific police and UN anti-AIDS programme join forces to tackle spread of HIV

13 September 2005 – With Pacific Island nations increasing their provision of personnel for United Nations peacekeeping operations, the UN anti-AIDS programme today joined forces with police chiefs from 21 Pacific island nations across Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia to provide AIDS training to their forces.

"This initiative is a major step towards scaling up HIV prevention measures among police from the Pacific region working overseas. This will also ensure more protection for their families and communities," said Ulf Kristoffersson, Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) office on AIDS, Security and Humanitarian Response, during a signing ceremony in Fiji at the 34th Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Conference there.

The initiative aims to provide training on HIV and AIDS for police from the Pacific region before they are deployed abroad, to prevent them from contacting the virus and spreading it when they return home.

According to UNAIDS, the Pacific island region is one of the largest contributors of police personnel serving on UN peacekeeping operations. Police personnel there are also increasingly engaging in regional security-oriented initiatives, such as the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands.

Although the current HIV prevalence is low in many Pacific island countries, the epidemic is fast becoming a grave concern in Papua New Guinea, which has the highest rate in the region at 1.7 per cent. The uniformed services, and in particular young men and women serving on long deployments overseas, are highly vulnerable to HIV because of their work environment, mobility, and age, UNAIDS said.

"We welcome the new partnership with UNAIDS as it will allow our police personnel to get all the facts about HIV and learn how to protect themselves and their partners from the virus," said Andrew Hughes, Fiji Police Commissioner. "In today's world, we can no longer pretend that the risk of HIV does not exist. Being informed can save your life."

The initiative signed today will kick off a two-year programme to be implemented by the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP), which represents 75,000 personnel in the 21 countries. Beside UNAIDS, the programme is supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and New Zealand's International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID).

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