Entries in UNAIDS (4)

10:36PM

TOP UN OFFICIAL VISITS FIJI FOR HIV/AIDS TALKS

The Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr Michel Sidibé will be visiting Fiji this week to look at progress made to address HIV/AIDS both in the country and the region.

Whilst in the country, Mr Sidibé will meet with His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and officials at UN agencies in Suva.

Mr Sidibé’s visit to Fiji marks an important chapter in the progressive steps undertaken by the Fijian government to address HIV/AIDS.

While Fiji is classified as a low HIV prevalence country, its commitment to addressing this virus has seen an allocation of financial and capital resources to address this issue. In 2009 alone, Fiji spent a total of US$2.1 million on its AIDS response.

In 2011, Fiji became the first country in the Pacific region to eliminate laws restricting travel of people infected with HIV/AIDS, and passed the HIV/AIDS Decree as part of committing to human rights for those with the virus and to ensure that Fiji meets its own Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.

“In order to address the MDG's HIV/AIDS goal, the Fijian Government approved a new law this that, amongst other things, safeguards the privacy and rights of persons infected or affected by HIV”, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said.

“The HIV/AIDS Decree is based on the United Nations International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS, and on the Declaration of Commitment to a human rights based approach to dealing with the epidemic.”

This law has been acknowledged both locally and internationally as one of the most progressive HIV laws in the world.

11:01AM

REPUBLIC OF FIJI PRESIDENT LEADS HIV/AIDS MEET

His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of the Republic of Fiji, led a five member Fiji delegation to the recent Asia-Pacific High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Assessment of Progress against Commitments in the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals which convened in Bangkok from 6-8 February 2012.

Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the meeting was attended by close to 300 delegates representing ESCAP member countries (33 countries in all including Macao, China as an associate member), different United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.

This High Level Meeting was a follow up to the UN HLM meeting in New York in June 2011 and the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP 10) in Busan, South Korea in August 2011.

The opening session was jointly inaugurated by Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, who gave the Opening Address while His Excellency Mr Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Thailand, who as host gave the welcoming address. His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, gave the keynote address.

The meeting in an unprecedented move elected His Excellency the President as Chairperson for the meeting with Dr Nafsiah Mboi, the Secretary of the National AIDS Commission of Indonesia as Vice Chairperson and Mr Sunil Samaraweera of Sri Lanka as Rapporteur, putting Fiji at centre stage - a key milestone for a small country like Fiji as well as the rest of the Pacific Island Countries.

The President attended several side events including Effective law enforcement practices in the HIV response, Making Gender Equality Central in National HIV Responses and Engaging with young people: removing legal and access barriers

The President also took part in the Interactive panel discussion on “Enhancing political commitment and multi sectoral cooperation to accelerate universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support” moderated by Ms Nisha Pillai of the BBC where he was the keynote panelist. The other members of the panel included Dr Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS, Hon Michael Kirby, former Judge of the High Court of Australia and Mr JVR Prasada Rao, Special Advisor (Asia-Pacific) to the Executive Director, UNAIDS.

As Chairman, His Excellency was heavily involved with the meeting proceedings throughout the HLM. The meeting widely acknowledged His Excellency’s presence and for chairing the HLM and expressed its deep appreciation for his long term association and contribution and his deep interest in HIV/AIDS related issues.

12:06PM

FIJI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE ACTION AGAINST HIV & AIDS

Fiji’s President and Head of State His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has called for adequate funding towards HIV and AIDS programmes in the South Pacific.

Addressing government leaders and senior officials at a high level UN conference on HIV & AIDS in Bangkok this week, Fiji’s head of state also highlighted the need to incorporate funding for these programmes in national budgets.

“Countries and governments have the responsibility, after all their competing priorities and commitments, to ensure that they provide funds in their national budgets in their response to HIV/AIDS,” Ratu Epeli told participants.

“After all, it is a government’s moral responsibility to provide for the welfare of their people”.

He said that despite the gains made in fighting HIV/AIDS, the international funding for programs in the Asia Pacific region had dropped in recent years and continues to decline.

The UN said that countries such as China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Samoa, and Thailand, have succeeded in funding much of their own HIV programs despite the drop from foreign donors.

In 2010, Fiji became the first Pacific island nation to decriminalize homosexuality and is the only one funding its own antiretroviral treatments.

There are six million people in the Asia Pacific living with HIV, about 15 percent of the world
total.

7:00PM

RATU EPELI ATTENDS UNAIDS CONFERENCE

ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer (C) opens conference with the President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (L) and Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau is currently in Bankok, Thailand attending a high level United nations Conference on combating AIDS in the Asia Pacific region.

Ratu Epeli is attending the conference as a Pacific Ambassador for AIDS which started yesterday (Fiji Time).

The three-day conference which opened at the Bangkok headquarters of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), marks the first-time for government leaders, senior officials, civil society representatives and people living with HIV from 34 Asia-Pacific countries to meet in a single forum to address the ongoing epidemic in the region.

The Asia-Pacific region has witnessed widespread gains in combating the spread of HIV, but experts at a United Nations meeting were told that the epidemic is still outpacing the region’s efforts against new infections.

“The Asia-Pacific region has seen impressive gains in addressing HIV,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer said in her opening address to participants.

Over the past decade, the Asia-Pacific saw a 20 per cent drop in HIV infection rates and over one million people in the region obtained access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment which also saw a decline in the the incidence of HIV among children below the age of 15.

However, while new infections in high HIV-prevalence countries such as India and Thailand tapered off between 2001 and 2009, infections in low HIV-prevalence countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines increased by 25 per cent over the same period.

“To move us closer towards the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, we must ensure sustainable and high-impact responses by explicitly and meaningfully addressing HIV within the broader inclusive development agenda of the Asia-Pacific region,” Dr Heyzer added.

“For the first time in history we have the possibility to end AIDS and Asia-Pacific nations have shown we can lead the world in reducing infections, increasing treatment and making an impact,” Ratu Epeli said.

“But we cannot ignore the challenges our region faces and how these can jeopardize our ability to progress,”  Dr Heyzer noted.