ADVOCACY December 2, 2009

An OPEN strategy for a response to AIDS in the Pacific

The Pacific is a unique and vulnerable region. It spans a third of the world’s surface and accounts for just 0.14% of the world’s population—with a similar proportion of the global burden of HIV. For Pacific countries, even a small number of people living with HIV can translate into high incidence and prevalence rates that can have devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities and economies. These challenges demand greater global attention. Pacific countries are often included in broad Asia–Pacific regional groupings where the magnitude of the problem in Asian countries overshadows the challenges and needs of smaller Pacific countries.

The Pacific region is characterized by diversity—an evolving mixture of cultures, traditions, languages, political systems and living conditions. Even the more-developed countries of the region are not immune to significant challenges to human development, compounded in recent times by the global financial crisis. Countries in the Pacific are at various levels of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—but it is unlikely that any will meet all the health targets by 2015.

These Pacific realities led to the constitution of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific in October 2007 to examine the current scale of the HIV epidemic in the region. The Commission also examined how the Pacific’s response has changed over the past decade and how this momentum can be strengthened. During consultations in Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Samoa and New Caledonia this process entailed reviewing over 500 documents; commissioning eight studies in a range of areas; undertaking two surveys of Pacific people’s perceptions of and attitudes to HIV; and listening to people affected by HIV and those working with them. National, regional and global experts were enlisted to review the data informing the deliberations of the Commission.