Partnership Delivering Services to Fight HIV/AIDS in The Pacific

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - ADB is engaged in a partnership that is delivering HIV/AIDS prevention services in 10 small Pacific developing countries.

The partnership began a year ago with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the official executing agency for a project supported by an ADB grant of US$8 million.

SPC is a regional organisation providing technical, professional, scientific and research support to its 22 Pacific island country and territory members.

The partnership has so far enabled SPC to recruit 10 new staff and carry out a number of prevention activities critical to curtailing the spread of the virus. Activities that have started or are planned include developing a condom social marketing program through mass media, training health care workers, tracking the spread of HIV/AIDS, and designing information and communication materials for vulnerable groups.

Target countries of the project include Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

“Progress so far has been very encouraging. From October to November 2006, ADB’s grant supported Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) workshops in the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. This will lead on to the production of important education materials,” says ADB Pacific Department Director, Indu Bhushan.

“ADB has also supported the development and pilot program for behavioural surveillance surveys for youth and antenatal surveys for pregnant women in the Federated States of Micronesia.”

Seafarers are among the groups that run a high risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.

“Preparations are well underway to establish seafarers drop-in centers in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati,” says Salli Davidson, Project Coordinator from SPC.

“Drop-in centers are secure, comfortable areas where they can access the Internet, call home, and get access to information on safe sex, as well as get referrals for voluntary HIV testing and counselling.”

Factors such as low levels of condom use, high levels of mobility, and a strong presence of sexually transmitted infections have left the Pacific at risk from the spread of HIV.

The HIV/AIDS prevention project is therefore a core part of the Pacific Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS 2004-2008, which has been mandated by Pacific governments. The project was developed through a comprehensive consultation and participation process involving a wide range of stakeholders from the region.