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Address Welcomed By PIAF

Address Welcomed By PIAF

PIAF congratulates and supports the address given by the Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi at the Melanesian Arts Festival during a special HIV Campaign organized by SPC and Fiji's Ministry of Health..

"Youth are our future. If we as leaders, whether traditional, religious or political, wish to leave them the great legacy we celebrate at this festival, we must be more open and receptive about what HIV/AIDS is and the measures needed to overcome it," said Vice-President Ratu Madraiwiwi in a message read out by an HIV peer educator.

"The question is whether we love our youth enough to put aside our own prejudices, so we can ensure they are better equipped to deal with HIV/AIDS and live."

His message is one of the strongest on HIV/AIDS that has come from a key Pacific Islands politician, and an important one for us all to hear. His voice rings out where others have not. It is a breath of hope for the people in the Pacific Islands

"Culture and tradition are important and vibrant influences in the lives of Pacific people. It is a heritage of which we are justly proud. Now some of our customary sensitivities concerning sexual conduct, reinforced by religious teachings, are resisting initiatives to combat the advance of HIV/AIDS. These taboos are often entrenched and deeply felt. However, people's lives are at stake. We must act to prevent the tragedies that HIV/AIDS leaves in our midst," continued Vice-President Ratu Madraiwiwi's message.

Leaders play an important role in the response against HIV/AIDS as they are the ones who help guide us and protect us. Leaders are the ones who can create policy and ensure we receive education, have access to treatment, appropriate laws relating to HIV discrimination, and that we begin to address prejudices.

The words of Vice President Ratu Madraiwiwi are a step in the right direction. It is time to speak up, it is time to speak out.

PIAF calls on Pacific Islands leaders to join in this public dialogue: speak up and protect our communities.

Ends

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