AIDS Could Destroy South Pacific Nations, Cultures, UNICEF Says
HIV/AIDS could destroy nations and cultures in the South Pacific, and children and young people in the region "could suffer the greatest impact" without effective prevention efforts, UNICEF New Zealand Executive Director Dennis McKinlay said at the opening of the Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Conference in Auckland, New Zealand, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 10/25). With so much attention focused on HIV/AIDS in Africa, the impact of the disease on small island nations essentially has been ignored, McKinlay said. The speed at which HIV is spreading in the South Pacific "could annihilate all the development achievements in the last 30 years," he said (Agence France-Presse, 10/25). "The good news is that the South Pacific is one of the last places on Earth where we can have a positive impact in slowing the spread of AIDS," McKinlay said, adding, "But that window is closing fast." UNICEF South Pacific spokesperson Gillian Mellsop said people's misperceptions that the disease affects only homosexuals, commercial sex workers and drug users are impeding prevention efforts. She added that most new infections among young adults occur in women. According to the United Nations, 1,028 people in the South Pacific are HIV-positive, excluding Papua New Guinea. About 40,000 people in Papua New Guinea are believed to be living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 10/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.