Nadi, Fiji — To effectively control HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in the Pacific there is a need to strengthen overall health systems.
This includes, equipping medical professionals with the required tools and skills to carry out diagnostic assessments, strengthening procurement, supply and management of drugs for treatment and evidence-based data that better informs policy change and programmes.
These were some of the goals of a regional workshop attended by over 100 health sector participants representing 11 countries from government, civil society, community groups and development partners such as the World Health Organization and UNAIDS that gathered last week in Nadi, Fiji.
The workshop was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Multi-Country Western Pacific Programme, which is supported by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
“This platform is an exciting opportunity as we have implementers from government ministries, civil society, communities and development partners together in the same room,” said the Asia-Pacific Team Leader for HIV, Health and Development, UNDP, Nadia Rasheed in her opening address.
“In order to succeed in building stronger and sustainable health responses that are based on human rights, it’s critical that we do so in an inclusive way – that involves all stakeholders and reaches the most vulnerable in society.”
“You are the evidence that people from completely different countries and backgrounds can work together in order to achieve a common goal,” said Fund Portfolio Manager, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Elin Bos.
“The collaboration you have established between the 11 different countries and through the Pacific Islands Regional Multi-Country Coordinating Mechanism is an example for other regions in the world.”
The island countries of the western Pacific face some unique challenges for the provision of health services. These include socio-economic disparities, living conditions, poor diet, lack of public health resources, geographically dispersed populations, and in some countries an unsupportive legal and policy environment.
During the workshop, the preliminary findings were released of a study on stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV, conducted by the Fiji Network for People Living with HIV (FJN+). The study found that people living with HIV continue to report that they are encountering stigmatizing conditions in society, including at health care settings, and in some cases, this is creating barriers to their accessing vitally important treatment, care and support services.
“Stigma and discrimination, especially self-stigma, is a concern in many of the Pacific countries” said Regional Coordinator, FJN+, Jokapeci Tuberi Cati.
“It can cause people to avoid visiting health care to get the medicines that they need. This is especially the case for key populations – such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who use drugs. It puts people’s lives at risk”.
Updates on the latest scientific data and tools were shared with participants, as well as experience sharing and best practices.
“Oftentimes, we find ourselves only focusing on the high-level stuff, this platform allows all key stakeholders to come together and be involved in the discussions at the ground level,” said Chair of the Pacific Islands Regional Multi-Country Coordinating Mechanism, Siula Bulu.
“It is through this kind of cooperation and partnership, particularly with the involvement of civil society and representatives from key populations, that we can make an impact.”
Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Associate - Effective Governance, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: (679) 3227 552, mob: (679) 9936 744 ;
Ian Mungall, Programme Analyst (Communications), HIV, Health and Development, Bangkok Regional Hub UNDP, E: email@example.com, P: +66 (0)2 304 9100 ext. 5022