24 May 2010

Concern about the growing number of people in Tuvalu with HIV

5:37 am on 24 May 2010

UNICEF is concerned the about the growing number of people in Tuvalu with HIV.

The regional head of UNICEF, Dr Will Parks, says data being collected in vulnerable Pacific countries including Kiribati, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu shows while regional rates are mostly low, Tuvalu could be in trouble.

With a population of just over 9,000 people there are eleven cases of HIV, giving Tuvalu one of the highest per capita rates in the Pacific outside of Papua New Guinea, where there is a generalised epidemic.

Most of the Tuvaluans infected are seafarers but some of their family members now have the virus.

"Tuvalu is on the verge of reaching a general epidemic amongst its population. The Pacific must do all it can to prevent the scenario that we've seen unfold in Papua New Guinea. And I'm pleased to say that governments are taking prevention efforts."

Dr Parks says, in the future, there's likely to be massive numbers of Pacific people with HIV and AIDS and families shouldn't be complacent.

More than 95 per cent of Pacific HIV cases have occurred in PNG.