Embrace those living with HIV/AIDS – Speaker

The 11th Speaker’s Debate on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 was held yesterday at the Nahigatoka Hall on the topic – “Is Fiji on track in meeting SDG 3.3 – by 2030 end the AIDS epidemic?”

Chaired by the Speaker of Parliament and Champion of HIV/AIDS, Sir Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, the ‘Speaker’s Debate’ series provides a platform for national discussion on the SDGs and Fiji’s key development issues.

While addressing the forum, the Speaker emphasized that we should always embrace those that are living with HIV/AIDS.

“A typical question that’s always asked when I talk about HIV/AIDS in schools is that, ‘what happens when someone gets HIV/AIDS in our family?’

“My response is always to embrace them. Don’t leave them out in the cold. That’s the worst thing to do. When someone gets HIV/AIDS in the family, we rally together and ensure that they get their supply of Anti-Retroviral to live a normal life and that’s what we need to do,” the Speaker said.

According to the Minister of Health and Medical Service Hon. Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete, Fiji is quite fortunate that the Champion of HIV/AIDS is the Speaker of Parliament.

“The Speaker took it upon himself to be the Champion of HIV/AIDS, therefore, its right at the top where the discussions of HIV/AIDS is happening.

“The HIV Act protects the patient, protect the staff whose looking after the patient, and also ensures that there’s treatment available for those who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

“We have about 464 people in Fiji today living with HIV/AIDS, 77% of them have access to treatment which is a very good number.  Throughout the Pacific, Fiji and Papua New Guinea and a bit of Kiribati, are the only countries in the Pacific that are willing to present data, which shows that we are transparent about the things that we do,” Hon. Dr Waqainabete said.

On the question whether Fiji is on track to end AIDS epidemic by 2030, the Minister said that in the past 20 years, the amount of investment, awareness including the enactment of the law that’s in place and the budget provision, Fiji will achieve the target.

Director, Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, UNAIDS Mr Eamonn Murphy said that Fiji can achieve the target by reviewing HIV/AIDS systems and approaches and adding some new innovation in the areas of testing and prevention and Fiji is well placed to meet the target.

Similar sentiments were shared by the other panelists namely Opposition MP Hon. Dr Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu, Secretary Fiji Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health Alliance Tamani Rarama and the Programme Manager for FJN+ Jokapeci Tuberi Cati.

Year 13 student Filomena Senirosimala of Sigatoka Andra College said it was a great opportunity for them as students to attend the Speaker’s Debate and learn a lot of things that were discussed on the topic, HIV/AIDS.

“The topic affects a lot of my peers, teenagers and I thank Parliament and the Government for discussing these issues openly.

“It was also an honor for me to see the Members of Parliament face to face and also the Speaker as we only see them on television,” Ms Filomena said.

Students from Sigatoka Andra College, Cuvu College and Sigatoka Methodist College were also present during the Speaker’s Debate and villagers, together with Members of Parliament who are currently attending the training for MPs mainstreaming SDGs in the work of Parliament.

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