President of Fiji committed to the AIDS response
27 August 2011
In a meeting with the President of Fiji on 27 August, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé commended the Fijian leader and his Government for recent amendments to the country’s 2011 HIV/AIDS Decree. Officially endorsed on 25 August, the amendments remove HIV-related travel restrictions and ensure greater protection for the rights of people living with HIV.
“Mr President, the United Nations salutes the bold and clear decision of your Government earlier this week to lift all travel restrictions for people living with HIV,” said Mr Sidibé. “People around the world need a voice like yours. I want to sincerely thank and recognize your efforts in the global response to AIDS.”
Calling AIDS “a great humanitarian challenge,” President Ratu Epeli Nailitikau said he was committed to not only preventing new HIV infections but also to working with people living with HIV and their families.
Mr President, the United Nations salutes the bold and clear decision of your Government earlier this week to lift all travel restrictions for people living with HIV
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
“I don’t see any nobler cause than AIDS,” said President Nailitikau. “In the history of Fiji, we lost a third of our population due to measles; whole generations of the community perished. The flu had the same devastating effect. With a population of just 800 000, we cannot afford to lose any more of our population. That, for me, is the driving force of my engagement.”
The UNAIDS office in the Pacific is currently working with the Government of Fiji to translate the recommendations from the June 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS into action. Key areas of focus include eliminating new HIV infections among children, ensuring HIV services for key affected populations are available, and implementing the newly-amended Fijian HIV/AIDS Decree.
According to government figures, coverage of services to prevent new HIV infections in children in Fiji is low. Though there has been progress in expanding HIV services for populations at higher risk of HIV infection, stigma and discrimination remain major barriers to access.
While at ICAAP 10, the President of Fiji chaired a session focused on the AIDS response in the Pacific region. Participants addressed the role of faith-based organizations and young people in the HIV response, as well as the importance of providing an enabling legal environment to protect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.