South Pacific Countries Are Not Allocating Enough Resources To Fight HIV/AIDS Epidemic, UNAIDS Official Says
South Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea, are moving toward HIV/AIDS epidemics similar to that in Africa, and their governments are not "allocating adequate resources" to fight the disease, Stuart Watson, program director for UNAIDS Pacific, said, the Syndey Morning Herald reports (Gibson, Sydney Morning Herald, 7/11). A report released last month by the World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said an increasing prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and high-risk sexual behavior have created a "ripe scenario for the spread of HIV in the Pacific," Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 7/11). The study, conducted between 2004 and 2005, examined 4,300 people in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. It finds that nearly one in five pregnant women in the region tested positive for chlamydia, and that condom use in the region is low. Less than 10% of young people reported using condoms consistently in the past year with commercial sex workers, and 12% reported using condoms regularly with casual sex partners, according to the study. Knowledge about HIV prevention also is low. In the Solomon Islands, 39% of young people reported knowing how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves from the disease. The study calls for increased STI education and prevention campaigns, as well as better surveillance, screening and treatment of chlamydia and other STIs (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/15). According to Watson, Papua New Guinea today is where many countries in Africa were five to 10 years ago with regard to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He added, "Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati and some parts of the Federated States of Micronesia are where PNG was five to 10 years ago and heading in the same direction." Most governments in the region are "sticking their heads in the sand" and avoiding the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention, Watson said (Sydney Morning Herald, 7/11). "The only successful initiatives to turn around the epidemic have been programs that actively and aggressively supported the use of condoms," Watson said, adding, "(There is) a huge red flag for the governments in the Pacific" (Xinhua News Agency, 7/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.