Responding to HIV the Pacific way

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Thursday 26 October 2006, Suva – The response to HIV and other STIs in the Pacific is equal to none other in the world, except perhaps for the region’s cousin in the Atlantic, the Caribbean. In both regions, key partners in the fight against HIV and other STIs have come together in a joint effort to plan and align their activities towards the same shared goals: to reduce the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS while embracing people infected and affected by the virus in Pacific communities.

More than 20 key people from a wide range of international and regional agencies and NGOs gathered this week in Fiji to draft the joint annual work plan for 2007 within the framework of the 2004–2008 Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Strategy Implementation Plan (PRSIP).

Partners attending the three-day meeting included SPC, the Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Project (PRHP), UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF), RRRT, the International Federation of the Red Cross, Fiji Pharmaceutical Services, Marie Stopes International, the World Council of Churches, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) as well as development partners AusAID and NZAID.

“This joint planning is very innovative and creates a real potential for us to achieve our goals in the response to HIV. It means that we are getting partners with different mandates and focuses to work collaboratively towards realising a shared vision and making a difference,” said Dr Dennie Iniakwala, Head of the HIV & STI Section at SPC. “It also means that we are avoiding duplication of work, that we have all agreed on the outcomes we want to achieve and that we have been able to identify key partners and resource streams to support our activities.”

The joint annual meeting is conducted in a very Pacific way- the atmosphere is casual and the spirit is one of sharing where people are free to say what matters. For Dr Iniakwala, “The meeting has a flavour of honesty – people are not afraid to discuss issues, particularly those restricting our contribution to the response to HIV.”

For Maire Bopp-Dupont, CEO and founder of PIAF, the PRSIP shows that “there has been a great investment in fighting HIV and AIDS in the region and a real concern about building the overall capacity of Pacific Island countries and territories [PICTs]. We now need to facilitate stronger support towards securing resources and building capacity of PICTs to effectively reverse the spread of HIV and care for those affected by the virus.”

The first PRSIP joint annual planning and inception meeting took place in September 2005 with the participation of 16 regional agencies, including AusAID and NZAID. Later that same year the PRSIP was presented to the Community of the Pacific Conference and the Pacific Island Leaders Forum and was endorsed as a ‘living document’.

Progress has been made in terms of aligning regional initiatives and funding streams with the PRSIP framework. Furthermore, since late 2005 two new funding streams have been secured: NZAID (USD5 million) and ADB (USD8 million). In June 2006, an alignment meeting was conducted between SPC, UNAIDS, WHO, PRHP, NZAID and GFATM that further improved the coordination of the regional initiatives within the PRSIP framework.

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