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HIV prevalent in youth age group: Fiji Health Minister

HIV infections in Fiji are common among the 20 to 29 years age group, says  Fiji’s Health and Medical Services Minister Rosy Akbar.

Akbar made the statement while addressing participants at the Adolescent Health Development Program 2003-2016 Review and Formulation of the New Adolescent Health Services Program 2016-2026 at Holiday Inn, Suva.

Akbar said this showed that a large number of young people were sexually active at an early age.

“This also shows that a large number of our young people are not monogamous, and do not use condoms regularly. Other than that, experimentation with drugs, including by injection, often makes our young ones vulnerable to HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), and adolescent pregnancy,” she said.

“Ignorance about how HIV and STI is transmitted and how to avoid infection exacerbates our young people's vulnerability.

“Our youths are our future leaders so any investment in their wellbeing and development is a way towards building a strong, resilient future of our nation.”

The open access to technology and social media, she said, was a challenge to the ministry in terms of ensuring the wellbeing of adolescents.

“While we all appreciate the good side, the bad side is cyber bullying, pornography, too much exposure to social media leading almost to a lifestyle of addiction, not to mention physical inactivity, and who knows there may be partner violence already happening which we may not be aware of.”

Akbar called on all stakeholders for their support in driving the vision of developing healthy adolescent and youth population in Fiji.

“Community participation in looking after the health and wellbeing of our adolescents, promoting health, prioritising education, avoiding circumstances that support the development of unlawful activities is very important.

“Through health promotion, individuals and families build an understanding of the determinants of health and develop skills to improve and maintain their health and wellbeing as they go through this stage in their lives as well as for their future,” she said.

Meanwhile, the shortage of medicine at health facilities in the country is at a critically low level, according Akbar.

As a result, the ministry has had to shift its drug stock from one facility to another to cater for the shortage of medicines at various facilities.

Akbar said the ministry did this to ensure health facilities were well-equipped with medicines.

“We have already made arrangements so the drugs can be in the country by this weekend. I'd just like to assure the public that the main stock of drugs will be arriving in the country by November end,” she said.

“We have reached a critically low level. We have medicines, we are trying to reshuffle from one facility to another and our doctors are working on that.”

Akbar said medicines were critically short in supply and would arrive in the country by the end of this week.

“Orders have been made to our suppliers.”

Out of the 142 types of medicines under the free medicine scheme, 141 are available in 63 pharmacies that are part of the scheme.

“As I speak, it is being dispatched to the 63 pharmacies that are part of our free medicine scheme. These drugs have been dispatched there,” Akbar said.

The important thing, she said, was for the public to register with the ministry to qualify for the scheme.

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