Statements and Webcast
H.E. Mr. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President
8 June 2011
- Statement: English (Check against delivery)
RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU, President of Fiji, said that for a small island developing State such as his own, the threat of HIV/AIDS was “like a ticking time bomb”. Youth were under threat from the scourge, which would debilitate the island’s people and economy, if action were not taken. Fiji depended heavily on tourism and it was vital to maintain controlled health regimes to safeguard that lifeblood to the economy. Religion and tradition greatly influenced behaviour in Fiji and he thus, recognized the exemplary work of social institutions in the response to HIV/AIDS. Since 2006, the Regional Strategy on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections had guided national and regional responses to HIV and AIDS, an issue that had been featured in ministerial meetings since 2004.
Turning to legislation and reform, he said much had been done in the Pacific, but progress towards legislative amendments had been slow. That was a monumental challenge, given the punitive approach to HIV/AIDS and the high levels of stigma and discrimination. For its part, Fiji, in 2011, had implemented the HIV/AIDS Decree, which provided human rights-based measures in the care and support for sufferers of HIV and AIDS. Social marginalization was among the main barriers to the HIV/AIDS response. Another challenge lay in ensuring that HIV-related laws were fully implemented and enforced. Legislation should provide human rights-based measures in prevention and support work.
“That is the way to go,” he said, adding that Fiji’s work with a network of faith-based organizations, the private sector, youth leaders and civil society, among others, would produce the desired outcome. “We must change the way we view HIV/AIDS as being only a health issue,” and ensure that health resources and funding were available to guarantee universal access to prevention, treatment and support — whether in places of work, play or worship. The major funding sources in the Pacific — including through the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria — would come to an end in two years. Funds would be needed to eradicate the AIDS scourge.