WHO meeting to identify priorities for action against sexually transmitted infections

News release

Faced with the potential threat of increasing HIV transmission, Pacific island countries and territories will identify priorities for action when the WHO meeting of Programme Managers Responsible for Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)and HIV/AIDS meet on Monday, 4 June 2001.

The participating countries in the four-day meeting will exchange and review updated information about sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS in the Region. The discussions will also cover the role of volunteers and strengthening community participation in the control of sexually transmitted infections. The meeting will aim to increase collaboration and networking in the area of sexually transmitted infection and HIV prevention and control in the Region.

Health officials have expressed concern about the increasing prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in some Pacific island countries. For instance, Vanuatu and Samoa have reported high sexually transmitted infection rates, with almost 50% of young pregnant women found with STI in separate surveys done in 1999. Recent increases in HIV infection have been reported from Fiji and Kiribati, and the conditions exist for potentially much larger transmission in many settings.

Although cases of HIV infections are still relatively low in the Pacific - a cumulative total of 697 as at September 2000 had been reported in ten Pacific island countries and territories -- changing social and behavioural context may lead to increases in the future. The majority of reported cases occurred among men, with sexual contact being the most frequently reported mode of transmission.

The WHO Meeting of Programme Managers is a follow up to a previous regional workshop that reviewed sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS epidemiological surveillance in Pacific Island countries in 1999. The focus will now be on reviewing the most appropriate intervention for the prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS in Pacific island countries and territories.

Some 20 participants from 20 Pacific island countries and areas are attending the meeting. The countries and areas represented are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

For more information, contact Mr Charles Raby, Public Information Officer at (632) 528 9983 or email: rabyc@wpro.who.int

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