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NZ needs to give more to HIV in the Pacific

27 October 2005

NZ needs to give more to HIV in the Pacific

HIV/AIDS leaders in the Pacific have joined forces in a call for the New Zealand Government to give more funding to prevention and medicines in the Pacific.

“All the science, all the leadership, and all participation in the world will mean nothing if we don’t invest sufficient funds to reach critical coverage levels,” said JVR Prasada Rao the UNAIDS Director for the Regional Support Team Asia and the Pacific.

New Zealand AIDS Foundation Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier said although New Zealand had a good record in providing aid money to the Pacific it had to do better in HIV/AIDS assistance.

“We do not want to see the Pacific follow in the path of Africa. We need to take effective, decisive and urgent action now.”

HIV was widespread in Papua New Guinea with 1.7% of adults living with HIV. Rates in other Pacific countries were still relatively contained, but factors such as poverty and poor reproductive health meant that they were likely to face escalating rates of infection.

“Pacific countries are in dire need of access to prevention programmes, HIV anti-retroviral medication, confidential testing and counselling services. We have a duty as leaders in the Pacific to help our neighbours deal with the growing threat of HIV transmission.”

Helping to reduce and contain HIV infections in the Pacific would also be of benefit to New Zealand because it would have a flow on effect here, she said.

“We are a part of the Pacific. Anything that happens in the Pacific will, and does, affect us.”

“Although the Government may think it is meeting its obligations, it has a social responsibility to do more. It is an issue of foresight and good leadership.”

Speaking at the first plenary session of the Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Conference yesterday Rao said that there is an urgent need for donor coordination at country and regional level.
Patron Her Excellency The Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright, PCNZM, DBE Governor-General of New Zealand Vice Patrons Dame Catherine Tizard, GCMG, DBE, The Most Reverend Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, The Hon Justice Michael Kirby, AC, CMG

Donors should understand the enormous cultural diversity of the region and the sensitivities of the communities while providing assistance to these countries, Rao said.

“We have to prioritise our actions based on solid quantitative and qualitative data and on the needs of those affected or infected by HIVAIDS”.

Rao said that governments must be guided by evidence, not by what is politically expedient.

ENDS


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