Eight Pacific Island countries and territories are joining a programme to screen for and treat the sexually transmitted infection, chlamydia.
Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu join a programme recently piloted in the Cook Islands, Nauru and Solomon Islands.
Chlamydia is a common STI in the region, particularly among young people, with up to 20% of people aged 15-30 possibly infected, and in some countries, prevalence rates higher than 29% among pregnant women.
The STI Advisor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Anna McNulty, says chlamydia can lead to infertility and infection of babies during delivery, but the disease shows few symptoms.
She says the goal is to test young people who have sex and have no symptoms but who could be infected and do not know it.
Dr McNulty says it is also aimed at testing people who are not usually able to access testing and treatment, such as sex workers and seafarers.
The pilot screening programmes in the Cook Islands, Solomons and Nauru included testing for another STI, gonorrhea, and received technical support from SPC and funding from the Asian Development Bank.
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will fund the extension of the programme to seven of these countries as well as its full implementation in the Cook Islands, Nauru and Solomon Islands.
The testing programme in Fiji will be funded by NZAID.