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Funding constraints lead to relocation

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 30, 2011) – The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF) is closing its Rarotonga headquarters and relocating to Suva due to funding constraints.

This is a direct result of funding constraints set on a small regional organization like PIAF, chief executive Maire Bopp said.

A small wind-up ceremony is scheduled for December 8.

Research officer Hilary Gormon will continue to conduct research locally, but will be based at the Red Cross building. The rest of the staff has chosen not to relocate to Fiji.

PIAF was set up in the Cook Islands in 2003, and a sister branch was opened in Fiji in 2009. Because the cost of operating is lower in Suva, and because an external consultant hired by New Zealand Aid Program recommended PIAF relocate to Suva, which is a travel hub and home to a majority of the regions non-government organizations, PIAF elected to relocate.

For years, it was the only regional non-government organization (NGO) based in Rarotonga.

Bopp has said that funding for HIV response in the Pacific region may reach zero before the island states can achieve UNAIDS’s goal of Getting to Zero by 2015.

She spoke up after the Global Fund announced its decision to cancel Round 11 funding and replace it with a transitional funding mechanism.

Most HIV projects and programs in the Pacific have been reliant on the Global Fund and the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund, but now Pacific nations will have slimmer chances of obtaining funds.

Bopp says the Pacific regions ability to respond to HIV will now be in question because the cancellation of Round 11 of the Global Fund anticipates funding uncertainties beyond 2013.

She says donor countries and agencies are now placing tight measures on how they channel their aid, and it is about time that the Pacific starts analyzing where the AIDS response and epidemic are and develop strategies for beyond 2013, and prioritize resources needed to carry out strategies despite decreasing funding levels.

Bopp is expected in Fiji this week to hold discussions with the Secretariat of the Pacific Island Community (SPC).

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