Fiji Times

SUVA. Fiji (Jan. 28, 2008) – In their haste to prevent the scourge of HIV-AIDS and unwanted pregnancies, the people of Lomaiviti have brought upon themselves an unexpected calamity.

The population has stagnated.

It is not that the people of the province are not having sex.

Instead, it is the fact that safe sex be it through the use of contraception, abstinence or fidelity is practiced to such an extent that couples are not having children.

From the point of view of the authorities, the fact that sexually transmitted diseases have virtually been eradicated must be welcome news for which villagers should be commended.

For social workers, the fact that few unwanted or unplanned pregnancies occur would be a cause for relief.

But this must be a nightmare for provincial administrators.

The fact of the matter is that a slowing or decreasing population causes several problems.

Fewer children will mean a lower quota of teachers in village schools.

Eventually, figures could fall so low that students from several villages will be forced to use one school.

This means extended travel, or in extreme cases primary school students boarding in the neighbouring village.

A falling population will mean fewer people to maintain village amenities such as water projects, schools, sea walls and plantations.

It can trigger a move from the villages to the urban centres, sometimes placing pressure on relatives who live in the towns and cities.

For a province like Lomaiviti, an older population means more pressure on a smaller number of people to produce crops which are sent to Suva and Levuka for revenue with which to support village economies.

Less crops means less visits by inter-island vessels or higher freight costs.

In an attempt to encourage the propagation of the community, elders have introduced a ban on yaqona consumption for three weeks in a month.

This move is designed to encourage couples to spend more time alone in the belief that this will lead to an increase in the population in around nine months. That will only happen if the condoms come off and the abstinence ends.

Lomaiviti must not, however, lose sight of the fact that once this happens, fidelity becomes even more important if HIV-AIDS is to be combated effectively.

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