CAPTION: President, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau meets students of Dudley High.
HIV education begins at home and parents must get past the attitude of not talking about these issues to their children, says the President, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.
“Parents are responsible for educating their children on the facts of life and HIV is a fact of life,” said His Excellency as he restarted his campaign on HIV/AIDS advocacy to schools.
The head of state today told students of Dudley Intermediate and High School, of Fiji’s HIV status and where it can be if control measures are not heeded to.
“While the number of cases in the Pacific is relatively low in the scale of global figures, we must not be complacent. We must ensure that we keep it (the number of cases) low and eradicate it because it is like a creeping fire that can burst into flame and when that happens we are in a bad way,” Ratu Epeli said.
On the issue of those living with the infection, the head of state said, “Fiji is no longer dependent on external aid and is the first country in the Pacific where the Government is footing the bill for the anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to be administered on 124 persons in the three hubs”.
Government has already declared that it will foot the bill for any patient who agrees to be administered with the ARV treatment and has kept to its word by increasing the funding from $50,000 to over $100,000 in the last three years.
Ratu Epeli said while the figure was low in Fiji, the infection was on the rise with new cases every year surpassing that of the previous year’s.
And the figures attesting this highlights that in 2010 the figure went down to 33 from 43 the previous year but since then it has increased to 53 new cases in 2011 and 62 in 2012.
The students used the opportunity to get to know the President, especially his thoughts on youths, the dynamics of living in the information age and how they could contribute to the advocacy.
Interestingly, they expressed an interest to interact more with persons with HIV to learn about the infection and His Excellency encouraged this as these people are often isolated and stigmatised.
The President had earlier spoken to students of DAV College in Samabula and will be spreading the message to other schools in the central division later this week.