VANUATU
 
 

26th UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL SESSION ON HIV/AIDS

Statement of the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu

Delivered

by the

Minister for Health
HON. Clement LEO

New York, 27th June 2001


 

 
Mr. President,

I bring you greetings from the government and the People of Vanuatu and herewith pledge its support for the global efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS that is now materializing in this August assembly, under your able leadership.

Vanuatu associates itself with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Tuvalu on behalf of the Pacific Forum Island Group.

Vanuatu, like Tuvalu, reports zero confirmed case of HIV/AIDS. Despite that clear success story, we have not been complacent. The Government of the Republic of Vanuatu has responded to the Global H1V/AIDS challenges in the last decade now in the Health care sectors.

The Government is deeply concerned about the challenges and burdens this epidemic has placed on human development and global security. Vanuatu in several respects is vulnerable to becoming affected by this deadly disease HIV/AIDS.

As a least developed country Vanuatu already faces many social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. Its high population growth rate, is particularly felt in the urban areas. It has a very young population with 80% between the age of 15-25 years of age who are highly vulnerable.

The high population mobility, increasing level of unemployment, and the alarming magnitude of traditional Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are risk indicators of the spread of HIV/AIDS. This scenario, coupled with cultural factors and the lack of sophisticated technology for screening and testing may well point to underreporting or lack of detection capacity.
 

Mr. President,

Vanuatu is deeply conscious of the ravages of HIV/AIDS in taking its toll primarily at the productive sector of the population. This pandemic cuts at the very core of society, and undermines all development strides achieved to date. Social and economic progress will be further hampered if the pandemic is not reversed. For LDCs and small island states like Vanuatu, we stand to lose even more if we allow the pandemic to take hold of our small population, considering the many constraints we face even before infection is reported.

Vanuatu is acutely aware of the fact that the devastating effects of this pandemic is debilitating the already vulnerable members of our society, women, children, and young people. It is in this regard that we endorse the strengthening of human rights in our global fight against HIV/AIDS especially for the vulnerable groups. Our prevailing cultural and religious prejudices urgently need to be revisited for the obstacles as well as the potentials on the global scale. In this regard Vanuatu is confident that the human rights framework offers us all the ideal scope within which appropriate linkages exist with a way forward to solutions in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
 

Mr. President,

Vanuatu hails the creation of the Global Fund for Health and its emphasis on the prevention strategies which are strongly aligned to the goals of many government. We acknowledge the contributing countries, sectors and agencies to the fund and look forward to meeting the targets that have been set by the United Nations. Only then can we begin to turn the tide in our global search for solutions 20 years since HIV/AIDS infection was first detected.

In closing we would be remiss to make no mention of the leadership role that the Secretary General has rendered to this global struggle, which has profiled HIV/AIDS to this unprecedented level of United Nations action symbolized in this Special Session of The General Assembly. From this meeting Vanuatu looks forward to the adoption of a bold, action-oriented, realistic and achievable Declaration of Commitments, that will galvanise all international efforts and political will to date.
 

Thank you Mr. President.
 
 

Priority issues for the Government of Vanuatu

1. Leadership
 
i) Better coordination of collaborative efforts among partners involved in addressing HIV/AIDS related issues.

ii) Mobilizing local resources and expertise and strengthen existing networks with NGOs and stake holders

iii) Reaffirm the Political commitment and leadership within the political arena

iv) Exploring and utilizing the strength of Cultural and Religious leadership which currently is at the core of our strategies for all the interventions that are in place.

2. Prevention

A decade into prevention strategies has shown us that knowledge alone is not sufficient to sustain behavior change. Prevention strategies that leads to sustained behavior change is one of the priority areas needing immediate action.

3. Care and Support
Although no HIV nor AIDS cases have been reported yet, the Vanuatu Government sees the urgency in preparing the population at all levels within the society should any case be reported.

4. Human Rights
Again with no reported HIV/AIDS cases, the Government of Vanuatu recognizes the urgency and need for a common understanding among leaders at all levels of the society such as cultural leader, religious leaders, politicians, policy makers and lawmakers to address human rights issues, especially for, those affected with HIV including their kindred.

5. Research and Development
Numerous prevention activities were implemented during the last decade. To date there is still no clear picture of the impact on attitudes behaviour and practice of the population.
 
The Government of Vanuatu thus places research and development as one of its top priorities by which effective programs could be developed to address HIV/AIDS issues more efficiently.

Another aspect of research is into the traditional use of herbal medicine, which had been in use for centuries and is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition
Expected _outcome of this special session on HIV/AIDS

1. The Vanuatu Government expects that the outcome of the
Proceedings of this session will consist of sound decisions in the context of small Island nations and which will better address the situation the people of Vanuatu including other Pacific Island countries are currently facing.

2. With very limited resources, the Government of Vanuatu is
Looking forward for a positive response from UN and Donor agencies to increase funds and resources to the Pacific Island Nations before it is too late.

Conclusion

With still zero prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS up to now, the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu wishes to reaffirm its strong commitment in the fight against the AIDS epidemic at the National and Global level.

Lessons learnt from affected areas around the globe have provided us opportunities whereby we are able to explore strategies to address issues relating to HIV/AIDS effectively. Experience has shown that the AIDS epidemic is better dealt with, through a multi-sectorial approach due to the complexity of the problem.

The Government of Vanuatu will be looking forward to working closely with the UN, Donor Agencies and partners locally and globally to address these issues, capitalizing on approaches that are appropriate to Vanuatu's situation.