Pacific Island Aids Foundation Closing After Donor Funding Dries Up

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Suva, Fiji – The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundations (PIAF) is no longer able to survive as the donor funding has ceased to support the organization. Financial cuts affected the administrative and financial operational capacity of the organization and soon spread to the projects.

The organization tried to cut costs and other strategies applied forcefully since 2009 was hoped to survive the crisis, but the miracle did not happen.

PIAF closed its Suva office in November 2012 and one staff member remains under the care of Fiji Network of Positions People (FJN+) until end of March 2013 when all closure tasks are completed in Fiji.

The office in Rarotonga, Cook Islands retains two project desks with communication and research until April at the latest. The Communication project is now in its final reporting and closing stage whereas the research programme has applied to have the project transferred to another organization and completed by June 2013.

PIAF’s founding trustee, Maire Bopp has worked for 10 years as the Chief Executive Officer of the organisation, and external reports of PIAF in 2005 and again 2009 have both stated that her energetic labour and character has forged the organisation and the work it was able to achieve.

But Maire Bopp prefers to say “that the opportunities were there and God led the path so much that there were often the right people in the way to help get through.”

Maire said it was an honour serving those in most need and learning from decision-makers with experience, adding “I believe that PIAF has made a great contribution to awakening the response to HIV in the Pacific. When people think of PIAF, they often see me; but PIAF was never just me. There was a Board, supporters, volunteers and very dedicated staff who worked tirelessly to make a difference.”

She said she is glad that PIAF has come this far and hopes the results produced will have its ripples of benefit in the longer run in spite of PIAF’s closure.  

Speaking on behalf of the PIAF Board, Chairperson Ingrid Leary said the Board regrets the closure of PIAF because of the important role it has played in putting PLHIV at the heart of the response.

“We wish to acknowledge the incredible efforts of all the staff who have served during PIAF’s history, including during the recent uncertainty around closure. Their commitment to serving those infected with, and affected by, HIV has been unswerving,” Leary said.

Leary added, “In particular we wish to thank and acknowledge the work of the CEO Maire Bopp, who saw the need for an organisation such as PIAF, and responded by dedicating her life to helping others affected by HIV. Through her determination, compassion and intelligent leadership she has changed lives, and profoundly changed the way communities in the Pacific respond to HIV. We also wish to thank the funders and supporters of PIAF whose contributions allowed PIAF to make a real difference in the world”.

In the meantime, a number of changes will be made to PIAF’s social media relations with its popular Facebook page changing to “Pacific AIDS-TALK”, while the website will remain active till the end of 2013 for information access.

Achievements of PIAF in the region:

* PIAF was the first and has been the only regional NGO that has been representing the voices of people living with, and those affected by HIV and AIDS in the Pacific over the past decade.

* Advocated for access to life saving HIV treatment, in the form of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and continued to advocate and push for ways to improve the quality of lives of people living with HIV and their families.

* Trained over 24 AIDS Ambassadors from Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea who have been actively involved in the HIV response throughout the Pacific and continue to be vocal today in their respective countries. These are the faces and voices of HIV in the region.

* PIAF’s legal program has conducted human rights trainings and assisted regionally in pushing for Pacific Island countries and territories to have HIV laws in place.

* Acted as the secretariat for the Pacific Regional Alliance on HIV, and assisted in establishing positive networks within the region.

* PIAF has produced research focused on the lives of PLHIV including reports on stigma and discrimination, Experiences and Perspectives of Women living with HIV in Fiji and Papua New Guinea and a soon to be completed participatory research project on experiences of HIV treatments.