The Speaker of the Fijian Parliament and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for the Pacific region Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said Fiji is among the top five countries of rising new HIV infections in the Asia Pacific region, among the 15–24-year-old age group.

With an increasing rate of over 50 percent since 2010 - this has put Fiji ahead of all other Pacific Island countries, says the Global AIDS Monitoring Report,

“In 2020, Fiji had a total of 147 new cases and 13 of these cases were paediatric cases. These were mostly opportunistic cases, meaning that there wasn’t active outreach done for testing. This could indicate that there are many unknown cases out there – a trend that is common throughout the world."

“I have no doubt that you will agree with me that these numbers are not acceptable,” Ratu Epeli said.

The Speaker highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains made against HIV. “This year has been like no other for Fiji and despite it all, we can proudly stand together to affirm the continuation of our HIV response."

“I fully understand and totally support the importance of the COVID-19 response and the prominence it has now been given and the calling for full and concerted public action to combat it. However, I also believe that existing diseases, such as the pandemic HIV/AIDS, also needs our continued attention as it has been around for so many years - and is still without a cure - and as such has lifelong impacts on people who are affected and their families.

“The COVID-19 pandemic must not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV. There is a risk that the hard- earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19, but the right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other,” he added.

Ratu Epeli thanked the UNAIDS based in Fiji and Thailand for their leadership in mobilising the support needed to ensure that the HIV drugs arrived in Fiji without any disruptions in treatment.

The Speaker also thanked the Atlanta Medicare from Thailand for their donation of first-line HIV drugs and Fiji's Vuvale partner - DFAT for supporting the paediatric HIV medications.