Fiji, a country located in the South Pacific, consists of 300 islands and has a current population of over 914,000 people. Although Fiji has one of the lowest prevalence of HIV in the world, HIV cases and the risk of HIV are consistently increasing. Luckily, young people are educating themselves in order to fight against HIV in the country. They are becoming involved in this topic and trying to achieve the United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.
Meeting in Suva
In October 2018, according to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 24 teenagers attended the meeting in Suva, Fiji, desiring to distinguish the factors that would put young people at risk of HIV.
Fiji’s Global HIV/AIDS Progress report states that less than 1,000 people were living with HIV in 2014 in the country. Out of the age group between 15 and 49 years old, around 0.1 percent had a virus. Despite these statistics, HIV cases are beginning to increase as there were 68 new HIV cases in 2014 and 50 more in 2015.
In a hope to prevent any further new cases, especially in younger generations, teenagers who attended the meeting identified what could possibly risk the youth’s health regarding HIV.
UNAIDS states that attendees noticed and appreciated the steps Fiji has taken to reduce the risk of HIV, including policies created in order to establish a clearer access to HIV services for young people. Yet, the participants identified that Fiji needs to address the lack of access to condoms, harm reduction programs, stigma and discrimination.
Youth Knowledge on AIDS
A representative of Reproductive Family Health Association, Swastika Devi states that while many younger generations are quite aware of how HIV is prevented and transmitted “many of them are not aware that antiretroviral treatment exists.” This is why they desire to get and share access to this information as well as a program to attain it. Although about 300 people in people are receiving the antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Fiji, young people might not be aware of this.
Youth that attended this meeting suggested and agreed to not only conduct a youth advocacy network regarding sex education and reproductive health but they also desired to involve youth leaders from certain communities and areas that deal with HIV to increase advocacy and engagement in fighting against this epidemic. They have connected with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Fiji as well as Fiji’s World AIDS Day.
The UNAIDS Country Director in Fiji, Renata Ram, has also desired for youths to get involved in eradicating the HIV epidemic. She states that because this epidemic is affecting younger generations, they should be involved and lead their own communities to help those that are affected.
Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS
Fiji already had a strategy regarding the reduction of HIV prevalence called Fiji’s Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS. This strategy was active from 2013 to 2017. It involved faith-based responses to this epidemic that aimed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS but also cared for and supported those that were affected. The strategy included involving organizations that are faith-based in order to eliminate HIV infections, discrimination and AIDS-related deaths as well as creating strategies and actions to achieve all these goals.
Despite the fact that Fiji has one of the lowest HIV prevalence in the world, this is still a growing epidemic in this country and this problem cannot be ignored. Luckily, young generations have every desire to end HIV in Fiji, and they want to help those affected with this disease. Fighting against HIV in Fiji within younger generations is not only helping to better the country, but also better the future.
– Charlene Frett