For the last decade, the European Union (EU) and other organizations and coalitions like the United Nations (UN) have delivered significant results in treating and preventing AIDS-related illnesses in the developing world. For example, according to the World Health Organization, (WHO) deaths from AIDS in Ethiopia have decreased by over 45%. In countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana, this number is over 60%.

Unfortunately, over the same timespan, there has been a considerate increase in the rate of deaths from AIDS in Eastern Europe. Even though the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe is lower than in African nations, any percentage increase is great cause for concern. As a result, many are urging the European Union to review their objectives and to improve treatment and prevention of this disease in not only developing countries, but Eastern Europe as well.

In Ukraine, there has been a 144% increase in the number of AIDS-related deaths, and in Belarus, it was an 1100% increase. These startling statistics have led many to criticize the European Union in their decision to concentrate funding for response to HIV/AIDS in developing countries instead of Eastern European nations. The majority of EU funding for the treatment and prevention of AIDS currently goes to developing countries.

Due to the rise in infections of AIDS in European Nations over the last decade, however, various organizations are placing pressure on the European Nation to review the appropriation of funding that goes to fight this disease, especially in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.

In addition to inadequate funding for middle-income countries like Ukraine for HIV/AIDS response, there exist many problems in directly dealing with this increasing disease crisis. Many of these countries have religious taboos of HIV, since many times people relate sexually transmitted diseases to promiscuous sexual practices. In addition to this stigmatization, since many cases of disease transmissions are due to unsafe drug use and needle sharing, the government will have to exhibit courage and make a stance in supporting sterile needle programs for drug users. This type of support is unheard of in many religiously conservative countries.

Many affirm that it is important for the European Union to recognize that it is also important to invest in middle-income countries, because they also struggle with infectious diseases like those in developing countries. The stigma and discrimination that the people living in Eastern Europe face may even make it harder for them to receive treatment. Nevertheless, the increase in HIV transmissions in any part of the world is unacceptable as the international community attempts to treat, prevent, and cure HIV/AIDS and many other diseases in the world.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: PANCAP, EurActiv
Photo: IPS

Fijian Exports Seeking New MarketsFor many Pacific Island Countries, a huge factor in their economic survival and competitiveness is their agricultural exports. In Fiji, aid coming in from the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand has significantly helped farmers and other agricultural workers to either maintain or boost their production and business outreach into various markets. Recently, however, there has been a stalemate for the Fiji Export Council (FEC) in making sure this sector that employs 60-70 percent of Fijian is able to reach its full potential.

There are many different types of funding that sometimes go unnoticed by farmers and those in the industry that could make the difference in breaking even or making a profit. These funds can be put towards something as simple as buying new equipment or even helping advertise a company’s products to markets outside of the general PIC area.

Programs have been created over the past two years whose focus has been specifically on working with distributors to bypass certain export regulations that have inhibited them from selling their products in different markets. Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA), funded by the Australian government, helps target specific markets for high-value Fijian goods. Through collaboration with government agencies, PHAMA tries to help in the application process and a basic understanding of the different rules and regulations Fijian companies must by-pass to sell their goods.

Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) is similar to PHAMA in its goal to increase exports, however, it works with other PIC such as the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, among others.

Having the financial support and involvement of Australia and New Zealand as well as the EU is important to minimize the distance that money and information have to travel to Fiji and other PICs. Eliminating a huge geographical distance allows the Fijian agricultural sector and its various workers to operate faster and have greater transparency.

Although the FEC is focusing on its agricultural sector which employs so many people, it may also be wise to shift some of their energy into revamping their tourism, as this is their second-biggest source of revenue aside from sugar export. For island countries, tourism provides a high number of jobs and has the ability to completely transform the economy; a major revitalization project currently being undertaken by another island country, Haiti.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Fiji Times