UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called on governments and donors to make greater efforts for an effective fight against AIDS in Pacific countries, where HIV epidemic risks spreading further due to high rates of sexually transmitted infections, unsafe sex, violence against women, stigma and discrimination, and weak health system.
Speaking at the launch of the Report of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific, Ban said: "Responses to AIDS in the Pacific must be based on an understanding of the region's peoples, cultures, beliefs and practices. This report takes just such an approach."
"It weaves together the story of HIV in 22 geographically and culturally diverse countries," he said. "We now have a much more complete picture and clear recommendations for action."
The report, entitled "Turning the tide: an OPEN strategy for a response to AIDS in the Pacific," is the first report released by the commission. The report highlights the key challenges that are blocking the AIDS response in the Pacific, and recommends decisive steps that countries in the region should take to protect their societies, cultures and economies from HIV.
It was presented here Wednesday by the chairman of the commission, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, who is deputy prime minister of Samoa, to the secretary-general.
"In countries with large populations, even several million HIV infections can seem like drops in a bucket," Ban said. "But where populations are small, as in the island nations of the Pacific, infections in the hundreds or thousands can translate into high prevalence rates -- with devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, economies and even security."
The commission has put forward 26 recommendations, he said, adding that he would like to focus on five thematic areas within these recommendations which he considered priorities:
First, countries must provide and enforce legislative protection for people living with HIV and their families, he said. "There can be no effective response to AIDS as long as some parts of the population are marginalized and denied basic health and human rights. This includes people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and injecting drug users."
Second, governments and donors must engage with civil society in decision-making, he said. "Community organizations should receive help in building up their capacity."
Third, Pacific countries must move from planning to implementation, he said. "Action is especially important in Papua New Guinea, which is the overwhelming locus of the Pacific epidemic, with 99 per cent of reported cases in 2008."
Fourth, countries must ensure that their HIV policies and programs empower women, he said. "Gender inequalities and gender-based violence are major drivers of the epidemic in the Pacific."
Finally, prevention activities aimed at high-risk behaviours need greater funding, the secretary-general said. "Programs must address behaviors and not population groups, to avoid stigma and discrimination. They must be in the language of the people most affected."