14 Jun 2006

Pacific warned about HIV threat

7:39 pm on 14 June 2006

The rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections in Pacific Island countries threaten to spark the spread of HIV in the region.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the SPC, and the World Health Organization say surveys of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behaviour conducted in six Pacific countries - Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa,

Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, indicate a ripe scenario for the spread of HIV in the region.

With the exception of Papua New Guinea, Pacific Island countries have low HIV prevalence rates or no cases.

But both agencies warn that this situation may drastically change unless urgent measures are taken to control sexually transmitted infections.

The study showed that these are common in the Pacific -the average rate of chlamydia reached as high as 29 percent in one of the country's surveyed, and could serve as an easy entry point for HIV.

The surveys showed that Pacific Island countries are vulnerable to HIV because the knowledge on how HIV is transmitted is still limited, unsafe sex is extremely prevalent, particularly among the young and a high proportion of people have multiple and casual partners.