H.E. Mr. Amraiya
Permanent Representative of Fiji To The United Nations,
during The General
Debate in the
26th UNGASS on HIV/AIDS
United Nations, New York, 27 June 2001
Fiji congratulates you and Her Excellency Ambassador Penny Wensley of Australia and His Excellency Ambassador Ibra Kaa of Senegal, the two co-facilitators, for arriving at the Declaration of Commitment as well as for the excellent preparations leading to this Special Session. This meeting may serve to turn the tide against the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS 20 years since it was first detected. We hold great hopes in this regard and in the knowledge that HIV/AIDS is preventable.
We also commend the Secretary General's personal leadership in our global struggle against the ravages of HIV/AIDS.
Indeed, it is true that poverty is the biggest enemy of Health and of HIV/AIDS in the developing World. We agree also with the Secretary General's statement that "we shall not finally defeat AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria or any other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care".
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is now a problem beyond comprehension. It destroys social infrastructure, causes economic disaster, threatens global security and will continue to aggravate human security if it is left unchecked. No one is immune to this global scourge including my own country, Fiji.
By global standards, the number of HIV cases reported in Fiji may be miniscule. But, it is alarming for our small population size.68 HIV/AIDS cases are confirmed between 1989 and 2000. More alarming is the high number of traditional STIs which may indicate an under-estimation of unreported infection. Of the 68 reported cases over 40% are between the ages of 20 and 29.
HIV/AIDS incidence in Fiji is displaying trends experienced by countries that are now experiencing catastrophic problems. We envisage, therefore, a more aggravated impacts, in the loss of lives and productivity, social dislocation, and other related ensuing problems for a small population like ours in Fiji.
The guiding principle of Fiji's Strategic Plan for combating HIV/AIDS was designed primarily "to prevent and control the spread and impact of HIV / AIDS and STIs in the Fiji Islands". It is crafted with a rights-based approach which ensures without judgment the rights of the individuals to information, free voluntary screening, but also to provide for appropriate and full community support and care of people living with HIV / AIDS.
In implementing the plan, the Government of Fiji has endorsed and declared political support and commitment towards the fight against HIV/AIDS over the next decade.
Most importantly, we can begin to win this battle if we successfully reverse attitudes and behaviour, and instill a stronger sense of belonging and community values. Stigmatisation continues to prevent our people from accessing the prevention and care services they need. It undermines confidentiality especially in small Pacific island countries like Fiji, which leads also to underreporting.
Other cultural norms contribute in similar fashion to marginalisation and alienation. They need revisiting if we are serious about checking the spread of HIV/AIDS. Uninformed societal, religious and cultural intolerances or antagonisms are disincentives to public awareness and voluntary access to information on HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention.
The government of Fiji seeks to promote a supportive and enabling environment for women, children and other vulnerable groups, including men who have sex with men, and sex workers by addressing underlying prejudices and inequalities through community and multisectoral dialogue. Appropriate policy and legislative reforms are also in order to strengthen the privacy, confidentiality and non-discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS and STIs prevention programmes are being developed in consultation with all stakeholders, in particular, NGOs and civil societies. Inroads will need to be made in the corporate and private spheres, especially in developing research and in resource mobilization.
We recognize that a comprehensive multisectoral fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and other infectious diseases can only succeed with adequate human and financial resources. We remain confident that in doing so, this august assembly will be equally committed to complement the limited capacity of developing and least developed countries to sustain their national strive against the pandemic. It is therefore important that the strategies and resource mobilization plans that will emanate from this Special Session must be attuned to their special needs, and their wider developmental goals.
The establishment of the Global Aids and Health Fund provides the needed catalyst for our concerted efforts to eradicate major infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS. We applaud the contributions to date by the governments of Japan, France, the USA and other donor countries. We make a humble plea to other developed nations to willingly boost the fund further to arrest the spread of the scourge of HIV/AIDS. While the fund is earmarked for preventive strategies, we equally urge for the recognition of the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS to appropriate care, treatment and support. For that purpose, Fiji longs to see in the immediate future the accessibility of affordable drugs and medicines to those in need through international and multisectoral partnerships and collaboration.
To conclude, let me pledge my Government's full support to the Commitments that will be adopted at this Special Session.
I thank You, Mr. President.