25 Apr 2003

HIV'AIDS summit in Palau warned of possible outbreak in Pacific region

10:37 am on 25 April 2003

Speakers at the first North Pacific Islands HIV/AIDS summit in Palau have warned that while incidence of the disease has been low in the region, the islands have all the ingredients for a major outbreak.

Maire Bopp, founder of the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation, herself a victim of the disease, says there is a high incidence of youth pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, mobile populations and cultural practices that could help AIDS spread through the region.

One of the main thrusts of the summit is to devise programmes that remove the stigma associated with the disease.

Maire Bopp says the shame associated with HIV/Aids persuades people to conceal their illness and hinders treatment programmes.

There are 7 thousand reported cases of HIV in the Pacific, two thirds of them in Papua New Guinea.