Commission on AIDS in the Pacific Report launched in Suva, Fiji

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Commission on AIDS in the Pacific Report launched in Suva, Fiji

30 April 2010

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The President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau receives the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific Report from Commission Chairperson and Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Misa Telefoni Retzlaff during the launch ceremony in Suva Fiji 26 April 2010.

The country launch of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific Report Turning the Tide: An OPEN Strategy for a response to AIDS in the Pacific took place in Suva, Fiji on 26 April 2010. The report was presented to His Excellency President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and representatives of the Pacific Regional organisations by Commission Chair and Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff.

Officially launched by the UN Secretary-General in New York on 2 December 2009, the report presented in Papua New Guinea on 11 March and launched in Samoa on 22 April 2010 by Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, the Prime Minister of Samoa.

Turning the Tide outlines the key challenges blocking the AIDS response in the Pacific and presents decisive steps countries in the region should take to protect their societies, cultures and economies from HIV. In addition, the report states that a “one size fits all” response does not suit the diversity of Pacific nations and outdated legislation criminalizing homosexuality and commercial sex is a major impediment in the region.

According to the report, as strong family and faith-based ties are central to life in the Pacific, any hope for success addressing the epidemic depends on integrating responses to HIV within these social structures. The report also recommends that greater involvement of people living with HIV in matters of policy making and programme delivery will strengthen the response.

Within the theological bounds of their various faiths, the churches, mosques and temples have been and continue to be prominent in driving HIV Responses in the Region as powerful players in Pacific communities.

UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Steve Kraus

Speaking at the Fiji launch, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Steve Kraus highlighted the Commission’s acknowledgment that without the involvement of religious communities, the responses to HIV in the Pacific would not have been as strong as they have been.

“Within the theological bounds of their various faiths, the churches, mosques and temples have been and continue to be prominent in driving HIV Responses in the Region as powerful players in Pacific communities,” said Mr Kraus.

Mr Kraus commended the World Council of Churches Pacific member churches for their powerful and insightful 2004 Nadi Declaration on HIV and the Church. The Declaration apologises for past discrimination against people living with HIV and states that the faith community is crucial in promoting community understanding of HIV issues in the Pacific by promoting greater understanding of the fundamental messages and values of love and compassion.

Focus on Pacific countries

Pacific countries are often included in broad Asia-Pacific regional groupings where the magnitude of the problem in Asian countries overshadows the challenges and needs of smaller Pacific countries.

These realities about the regions led to the constitution of an independent Commission on AIDS in the Pacific in October 2007 to examine the current scale of the HIV epidemic in the region.

There have been 29,629 reported cases of people living with HIV in the Pacific, with 5,162 new HIV diagnoses reported in 2008.

The Commission’s Report is the first document to synthesize regional and country information on epidemiology, risks and vulnerabilities, and financing and coordination of the AIDS response. Issues of rights and civil society as well as the impact of AIDS on health are also highlighted.