HIV/AIDS Threat to National Security in Pacific Region, Official Says
HIV/AIDS has become a threat to national security in the Pacific region, Falani Aukuso, deputy director-general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said on Monday, the Fiji Times reports. Aukuso was speaking at the opening of a meeting of the Pacific nongovernmental organizations alliance on HIV/AIDS. He said that there is a strong recognition in the region for the need to bolster and coordinate the capacity of NGOs to become a part of the response to HIV/AIDS. "But it goes further than that," Aukuso said, adding that he believes the "meeting will be a major step beyond just recognition."
According to Aukuso, a primary challenge associated with HIV/AIDS efforts in the region is to maintain a high level of commitment when the Pacific sometimes is seen as having a low or concentrated epidemic. He added that during the past four years, the Pacific has increased its HIV/AIDS efforts, which can be seen in the number of regional programs and the commitment of government and civil society groups. However, there still needs to be recognition that NGOs and community groups have access to areas and groups that governments cannot reach, Aukuso said. "NGOs are well-placed to articulate community needs and to respond appropriately," he said, adding that the groups have "closer interactions with other agencies and therefore are in a position to explore and test innovative interventions for HIV." NGOs also are "less bureaucratic in their procedures and therefore are able to respond and mobilize community action faster with whatever resources are available to them," according to Aukuso, who added, "This means less time pondering and more time to act. We must not lose sight of these positive qualities of NGOs" (Fiji Times, 4/22).