Suva, Fiji – This month Ministry of Health representatives and stakeholders from across the region will come together to determine the future direction of the response to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Pacific.
‘With the conclusion of the Pacific Regional Strategy on HIV and STIs this year, now is an opportune time to take stock of the progress made and decide how best to sustain achievements while identifying priority areas for continued donor support,’ said Dr Dennie Iniakwala, HIV and STI Team Leader at SPC.
‘Here in the Pacific, we have some of the highest STI prevalence rates in the world. Our people are therefore at greater risk of contracting HIV. We must not become complacent. We must endeavour to sustain and build on the progress made to date,’ said Dr Iniakwala.
To date, over AUD $53 million has been delivered to the region for HIV and STI programming through the Pacific HIV and STI Response Fund and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This investment has led to improvements in the ability of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to address HIV and other STIs.
[ A lab technician takes blood for a rapid HIV test, Yap State Hospital Laboratory, Federated States of Micronesia.]
The introduction of rapid HIV confirmatory testing, for example, has greatly improved the turnaround time for HIV results, from 6 weeks to one day in many PICTs, and this has increased the number of people coming for HIV testing.
‘These are important achievements. By increasing HIV test accessibility and testing the right population groups in our communities, we are better able to prevent and control HIV in our region,’ explained Tebuka Toatu, HIV and STI Laboratory Specialist at SPC.
‘Previously, many laboratories had to send samples overseas for confirmation of HIV test results. However, with the introduction of rapid testing in 13 PICTs, national laboratories are now able to do their own testing, more reliably and efficiently, and patients receive greatly improved treatment,’ said Mr Toatu.
Regional strategy review workshops entitled ‘Making waves: Pacific-led strategy for HIV and other STIs,’ will be held with South Pacific and North Pacific HIV/ STI and Reproductive Health Managers in Nadi and Guam on 18–21 March and 25–28 March respectively.
They will discuss the need for a renewed regional strategy to guide the response to HIV and other STIs in the region, together with regional partners and workshop hosts UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and SPC. Further consultation will then take place with civil society representatives and other stakeholders.
For more information please contact Jacinta Isaacs, Strategic Health Communication Officer, SPC Public Health Division at email@example.com.