Fijian President His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has called for a greater leadership role in the Asia – Pacific region in dealing with HIV & AIDS.
Ratu Epeli made the comment while addressing the Leadership Forum at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) on the topic ‘A world without AIDS: global developments and Asia and the Pacific leadership for ending AIDS’ in Bankok, Thailand.
“Very few countries with limited resources have been able to reduce HIV transmission, but, where activities have been successful, they have been guided by adequate epidemiological knowledge,” he said.
“Leaders, we cannot rest at the moment with our response to the epidemic. We can only reflect back at the successes that we have made together as leaders with the engagement of programme implementers, civil society and people living with HIV. These successful steps also come with missteps along the way which we need to strengthen and improve.”
The Fijian Head of State said the Asia Pacific needs workable solutions if HIV & AIDS numbers are to be controlled.
“We need to strengthen strategic health communication strategies in our preventative programmes, and also continue with our treatment and the continuum of care services, especially to our targeted population to further reduce the number of new HIV infections,” Ratu Epeli said.
“Synergistic efforts of diverse stakeholders – the leadership and commitment of national governments, the solidarity of the international community, the innovation by programme implementers, the historic advances achieved by the scientific research community and the passionate engagement of civil society, most notably people living with HIV themselves will be reflected.”
As a result of working together, many countries within the region are now within reach of achieving several of the key targets outlined in the 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, and are progressing towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 6 (MDG 6).
Over the past decade, the region has made significant progress in the AIDS response including national guidelines for implementing provider-initiated testing and counseling, including HIV testing and counseling for the key affected populations.
However, Ratu Epeli said the fight against the epidemic was far from over and a concerted effort was needed.
“As a region, we have learnt a few lessons worth emphasizing in our work in addressing target 8.”
“First, evidence is showing that increased investment in the programmes to monitor and reduce stigma and discrimination and to increase access to justice is critical for the achievement of broader HIV investment goals.”
“Second, the number of governments in Asia and the Pacific that acknowledge that HIV-related stigma and punitive legal environments are holding back progress is growing. Third, those countries that have taken bold action on stigma and discrimination report better results in achieving the 10 targets.”
“As leaders, we must not turn a blind eye to the global economic downturn that limits the availability of resources from donor partners, potentially putting additional strains, to cover for any domestic shortfalls within our domestic budgets.”
“We need to continuously review and renew our efforts and our commitments as leaders and partners on our response to HIV & AIDS, especially to our commitments in achieving and sustaining universal access to antiretroviral treatment,” the Fijian Head of State said.
“As leaders and policy makers, we need to recognize the importance of sustaining funding for ART to protect our current achievements, and also to enhance treatment and prevention outcomes. We need to learn from Cambodia’s success story, in achieving universal access, through the adoption of a continuum of care approach that links testing, care, treatment and community based support.”