Call for scaling-up of services for prevention and treatment of HIV and other STIs in the region

News release

Thursday 15 March 2007, Port Vila, Vanuatu — ‘The Pacific has made valuable progress in the last few years in addressing HIV and AIDS, but more action-orientated initiatives are needed,’ said Dr Dennie Iniakwala, Section Head of the HIV & STI Section at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), speaking on the last day of the biennial Pacific Ministers of Health Meeting.

Dr Iniakwala presented today on the midterm review of the Regional Strategy on HIV (2004–2008) and its implementation, and on progress made towards achieving Universal Access to prevention, treatment and care in the region by 2010.

‘One of the key messages to come out of the midterm review of the Regional Strategy was the need to scale up services for prevention and treatment of other STIs as a means of HIV prevention,’ said Dr Iniakwala. ‘High rates of other STIs, such as chlamydia, in the Pacific may contribute to a rapid spread of HIV as the presence of other STIs increases the risk of HIV transmission.’

Gender inequality has long been recognised as an important factor in HIV transmission, and the midterm review recommended that a more programmatic approach towards gender equality be adopted when implementing the Regional Strategy.

The review noted that although the progress made has been largely in areas of resource mobilisation, there are still significant gaps in terms of capacity development programmes to address HIV and other STI issues in the region. It recommended more effective coordination at regional level and an improved planning process, and also emphasised the need for capacity development specifically targeted to individual country needs and tailored to improving not only human resources but also service delivery, such as data management and monitoring and evaluation.

‘We need to consolidate our multisectoral response, and this can best be achieved through focusing on key sectors and themes, such as education,’ added Dr Iniakwala.

The Regional Strategy on HIV was endorsed in 2004 by the Pacific Island Leaders and the Pacific Community. At the last meeting of Pacific health ministers, in Samoa in 2005, delegates recognised the need for further action in a number of areas, including the translation into action of the Regional Strategy.

Today, the strategy’s implementation plan involves the participation of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) and more than 20 regional agencies, development partners, media organisations, NGOs and faith-based organisations.

SPC is responsible for managing, coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the strategy. Progress has definitely been made, but there is more work ahead as shown by the results of the WHO/SPC second-generation surveillance surveys conducted in 2004–2005 in six Pacific Island countries. The surveys showed high STI prevalence, limited knowledge about how HIV is transmitted, and low rates of condom use, particularly among young people.

For more information, please contact Mr Wu Guogao, WHO External Relations Officer, at (+63 2) 528 9930 or e-mail wug@wpro.who.int, or Dr Thierry Jubeau, SPC Public Health Programme Manager, at ThierryJ@spc.int. Press releases can also be found at: http://www.wpro.who.int/sites/pic/en/press_releases/ or http://www.spc.int/AC/health_conference_Vanuatu.htm#Press%20releases0

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