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TARAWA, Kiribati (May 17, 1999 – Radio Kiribati/PACNEWS)---A member of the Kiribati National Aids Task Force says the Kiribati culture can play a vital role in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

Teraku Tekanene, who also is Chairman of the Tarawa Old Men’s Association, told a gathering of Catholic youths in the capital, Tarawa, that the custom known as Te Tatauo, where parents restrict the movements of their daughters until they marry, is still very strong in the outer islands.

However, he said this custom is weakening in the urbanized parts of Tarawa.

"Many teenage girls and those between the ages of 20 and 31 can now be seen in the capital roaming about at night, dancing at night clubs and drinking in public bars," Teraku said.

He said these young women behave as if they don’t have parents or have lost touch with their Kiribati culture.

Teraku said these women and their male partners are being targeted for AIDS screening, which is currently on a voluntary basis.

Since HIV was detected in Kiribati in 1991, 24 people have tested positive. Nine have died. The youngest victim was a 19-year old woman.

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