Pacific Islands Face ‘Urgent Challenge’ To Address HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS Official Says Ahead of Conference
"HIV/AIDS ... is about to erupt" in Pacific Island countries and could have a devastating effect on the region if prevention and education efforts are not increased, UNAIDS officials said on Thursday, the UN News Centre reports. The comments came ahead of the first international Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Conference 2005, which is sponsored by UNAIDS and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. "The Global HIV epidemic has no boundaries," UNAIDS Regional Director Prasada Rao said, adding, "Pacific Island countries face an urgent challenge to prevent new infections and reinforce HIV and AIDS education programs." The conference will urge groups to work to overcome the stigma of AIDS, reduce homophobia, encourage churches to take leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS and promote HIV prevention methods. The conference also will provide a forum for people in the region who are living with HIV/AIDS to speak (UN News Centre, 10/20). The epidemic in the Pacific Island nations is "right at the cusp of being the next South Africa unless government and community action is mobilized," NZAF spokesperson Steve Attwood said, adding that leaders in the Pacific region have indicated they are concerned about the epidemic, signaling what could be the start of "an end to the head-in-the-sand issue." Attwood noted that about 1,350 people in New Zealand are HIV-positive and the country is expecting a record number of cases this year (NZPA/New Zealand Herald, 10/19). The conference will be held Oct. 25-28 in Auckland, New Zealand (UN News Centre, 10/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.