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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, September 27) – Plans are underway for Fiji's Ministry of Health and other stakeholders involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS to initiate discussions related to it at the Melanesian Arts Festival.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community behavioral change and communication officer in the HIV/STI section, Jovesa Saladoka, said stakeholders thought the traditional and cultural setting was ideal to discuss HIV/AIDS.

"The Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS strategy has encapsulated reducing the vulnerability of Pacific Islanders to HIV/AIDS infection and support for those who are living with the virus," he said. "However, HIV/AIDS has unfortunately become synonymous with Melanesia as countries like Papua New Guinea and Fiji report escalating figures of individuals being affected. HIV/AIDS has continued to thrive in limited resource settings and fragile economies, particularly amongst the youth."

The festival runs for a week starting from October 3 at various venues from the Post Fiji Stadium to Ratu Sukuna Park, Festival Village at the Fiji Development Bank foreshore, lower Civic Auditorium and the Fiji Museum.

September 28, 2006

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