EDITORIAL : Campaign About Aids/HIV Cases Should Focus On Prevention
Philip Davies, the Permanent Secretary for Health, has given us an update of the AIDS/HIV situation in Fiji that we must be concerned about.
He says “despite the global reduction in the number of new cases for HIV, the picture for Fiji is slightly different. The 2015 Global AIDS Progressive Report for Fiji shows that Fiji had a cumulative total of 545 cases. The trend of the HIV infection in Fiji continues to increase especially amongst the 20-29 years followed by the 30-39 years.”
While he did not provide comparative figures from the preceding years, the increase suggests that more cases have been reported and recorded. This does not include unreported cases, if there are any.
In the Global Aids Progress Report 2013 it was noted that Fiji’s response to HIV had shown achievements and had also broken down barriers especially in the last five years. These achievements and barrier breakings included Fiji taking the lead role in introducing human rights-based legislation as reflected in Fiji’s HIV’AIDS Decree and also in its policies and guidelines. Also bold steps were taken to eliminate mother to child transmission by adopting option B-Plus. This has been a success for Fiji, improving accessibility and up to date interventions with treatment, care and support for HIV positive mothers and their babies.
Fiji through the HIV/AIDS Board in partnership with non-governmental organisations has conducted research to assist the country in reducing stigma and discrimination on those affected.
The former President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, had led the charge in the campaign, particularly in schools. The enactment of the HIV/AIDS Decree which outlines a human rights framework for the response to the HIV epidemic and the establishment of the HIV/AIDS Board in 2011 which is responsible in coordinating Fiji’s HIV response, were significant. The 2009 Crimes Decree, which reformed the Penal Code and decriminalized male to male sex, also removed a significant barrier to access to HIV prevention and services for men.
It was said in 2013 that Fiji had come quite far in its response to HIV in Fiji since 1989 to 2013, and had seen an improvement in the way things were done at all levels.
But the report added there was a continual need for Leadership, Partnership and Ownership of the HIV Response in Fiji. “Without this commitment we will not go far. It needs collaborative efforts at the strategic and implementation level. Much is yet to be done,” the report said.
That, indeed, is still true today. If people are confidently coming forward to report cases or volunteering to be tested, that’s progress. That probably explains the increase in the figures. At the same we should be concerned that more people are getting infected. The major thrust of our campaign going forward should be on prevention. The old adage, Prevention is Better Than Cure, is still the best way to combat HIV.