KEYNOYE ADDRESS AT THE WORLD AIDS DAY -2018
Good Morning to you all
It is an honor for me to address you all this morning as we mark World AIDS Day 2018.
On this occasion of the 30th World Aids Day it is necessary that we start by having a special thought for all of the millions people, mainly young men and women, who were robbed of their normal life span and who succumbed to this terrible disease for lack of knowledge, care, treatment and fear of stigma and discrimination. Since it came on the scene in 1981, it has wreaked havoc and unquantifiable loss for mankind and has caused a serious setback for the world at large.
Today, we obviously know much more than what was known in 1981. There was a time when it was taboo in society even to mention HIV & Aids. But we have travelled a long way since those days and I am happy that all countries speak openly about it today. This can only be right because it is only when we come face to face with the problem and we realize the magnitude of the harm it is continuing to cause that we are galvanized into taking firm measures.
It is, therefore, most important that everyone knows his/her HIV status. Ignorance on this matter can cause death of innocent individuals. There have been cases where people who are infected have not shared this knowledge with their sex partners who in turn got infected.
In some countries such behavior is considered a serious criminal offence. I am of the view that it is imperative for sexual partners to be absolutely open with each other about their HIV status for their mutual protection.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important that each year we mark World AIDS Day. The Fiji Government continues to support this cause and looks forward to new partnership with support agencies and other stakeholders, on top of the work that we’re doing to complement what is a concerted effort and most certainly a cause that we will uphold for years to come until we are free of HIV.
Today we also acknowledge the many health care workers, social workers and educators in hospitals, clinics, schools, orphanages and in our communities who have devoted their lives to increasing awareness on HIV transmission, prevention and treatment. By their expertise and provision of service we feel very proud to have developed our own Fijian made professionals in this field of HIV care.
We wish to appeal to every sector of society to take this campaign seriously to build the capacity of our people, girls, boys, the young and the old and to make responsible decisions about their lives and careers.
We call on our traditional leaders, religious leaders, civil society formations, government departments and the private sector to learn more about the HIV prevention campaign and to support it.
We know that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV makes it a challenge for people to test for HIV and for those infected to seek treatment.
We know that the marginalization, discrimination and persecution of vulnerable groups only create conditions for the spread, not prevention of HIV.
We also know that HIV thrives where women are disempowered and excluded from education, employment and economic opportunities, therefore we must ensure equality and equity for all.
The health and growth of our economy depends on the wellbeing and capabilities of our people.
To develop the economy of the country, we need people who are healthy and living productive lives.
The epidemics of HIV, TB and non-communicable disease drain the economy of its most talented people in their most productive years.
This means that all sectors of society must contribute to improvements in the health outcomes of our nation.
HIV/AIDS has spread so fast in the world, especially in the poor and developing nations of the world that it has posed a serious threat against human existence. It kills over 300,000 people a year. It can affect anyone regardless of your race, sex, or age. It cannot be seen, cured, or destroyed. It is capable of destroying millions of people without wars or violence.
Around the world today, half of all new HIV infections are experienced by adolescents aged 15-24yrs, for us in Fiji HIV infections is common among the age group of 20 -29 years.
This shows that a large number of our young people are sexually active at an early age, are not monogamous, and do not use condoms regularly. Other than that, experimentation with drugs (drugs), including by injection, often makes our young ones vulnerable to HIV & Sexually transmitted infection, and adolescent pregnancy. Ignorance about how HIV & STI is transmitted and how to avoid infection exacerbates our young people’s vulnerability.
Young people are at the centre of the global AIDS epidemic.
HIV INCIDENCE: The Incidence rate 2018 is 0.082 per 1000 population which means in 2018, out of every 100,000 people, more than 8 people were newly diagnosed with HIV.
HIV PREVALENCE: Total number of cases diagnosed with HIV since the start of the epidemic (1989 – 2018) in Fiji is 927, giving an annual prevalence rate of 1.107 per 1,000 population or one person per every 1000 population
- Accessibility (equal distribution): this is the first and most important key priority for the Ministry’s efforts to tackle HIV in the country. Healthcare services is equally shared by all the people of the community irrespective of their race, religion or economic status. This concept helps to shift the accessibility of healthcare from the cities to the rural areas where the most needy and vulnerable groups of the population live through the provision of targeted population awareness, one-to-one counseling sessions, free screening programs, and free testing services, And right now as part of the WAD programme, and to match the Theme this year, there is free testing campaign for HIV so we can all know our status.
- Antiretroviral Treatment Services: ART is free! As the number of ART clients increases, the quality of service provision has improved over the years to include the increase in the number of health facilities providing ART, and also ART is provided free of charge to people requiring this treatment. These services are supported to ensure services are provided free of stigma and discrimination, and also encourage eligible patients to seek treatment.
- Develop a stronger linkage between HIV and TB program to ensure appropriate referral and treatment for co-infected patients
- Strengthen linkages in our clinical and public health management systems as the care for HIV must continue after the screening of a positive client.
We also acknowledge the tremendous contributions of our technical partners, WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNDP, DFAT, MFAT and other important agencies that I may have failed to mention this morning, I sincere take this time to thank you for your continuous support over the years.
It must be realised that MOHMS cannot do it alone therefore your support is vital to address the issues at stake in making our country AIDS free.
We also thank our Non-Governmental organizations for taking the initiative to expedite and provide services to assist and complement the services provided by MOHMS in the continuum of care for HIV
The MOHMS continues to advocate for prevention, Promoting Wellness to all.
We need our Community to look after the health and wellbeing of our children, adolescents and young people, we need you all to be promoting health, prioritizing education, avoiding circumstances that supports the development of unlawful activities. Through health promotion individuals and families build an understanding of the determinants of health and develop skills to improve and maintain their health and wellbeing throughout the life course.
Multi-sectorial collaboration with government agencies, non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, any other group with the passion to do things better for to provide quality HIV care services must be encouraged. Our Faith Based Organizations can also play a major role in promoting and encourage openness and positive living.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Today’s event is an appropriate recognition of the extraordinary progress made…and an important reminder that the most profound challenge still remains before us. There is currently no cure for AIDS, but treatments do exist which can slow the progress of AIDS.
Before you can get treatment you need to be tested, so ladies and Gentlemen get tested for HIV, it is free, and ‘KNOW YOUR STATUS TODAY’.
Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanyavaad