ISLANDER MOBILITY CAN SPREAD HIV EPIDEMIC

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 1, 1999 – Post-Courier)---High mobility among Pacific Islanders is a factor that can contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS among the Pacific Island nations, according to a United Nations Development Program official.

UNDP's assistant representative based in Suva, Linda Peterson, made the comment while giving an overview on the HIV/AIDS situation in the South Pacific.

Speaking at a session dedicated to Pacific Island issues at the recent 5th International congress on HIV/AIDS in Kuala Lumpur, Ms. Peterson said constant movement of people between places resulted in their having many sex partners.

She also noted that people from the Pacific living and working in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, might get infected and take the HIV virus back home.

Ms. Peterson noted that since island nations depended on the tourism industry, this also is an avenue for the spread of the disease, where visitors from around the world could infect local people.

Other factors that make Pacific nations vulnerable are: a slow and often stagnant economy; geography (travel between islands is easy); a still developing infrastructure (lack of health services); slow industrial expansion; foreign aid dependency, growing income disparity between urban and rural people and poverty.

She added that island nations have a high vulnerability factor with regard to the spread of HIV/AIDS due to the high number of people aged 15 to 24. This age group is identified as being especially sexually active.

In an effort to contain the epidemic, Ms. Peterson said island nations needed political will to develop the capacity of non-government organizations to address HIV/AIDS issues.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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