Fiji's HIV epidemic worsens, prompts urgent response

May 20, 2024 7:21 am

The annual number of new HIV cases has surged from 82 in 2017 to a staggering 415 in 2023, with projections suggesting that the numbers could double again in 2024.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is therefore stressing the urgent need to address the growing HIV epidemic in Fiji.

Permanent Secretary Dr. Jemesa Tudravu, while officiating at the Fiji Medical Association mini-conference over the weekend, highlighted alarming trends and statistics that indicate a significant increase in HIV cases over recent years, highlighting the critical need for concerted efforts to prevent a potential public health crisis.

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Dr. Tudravu shared historical data, seeing that Fiji’s first HIV case was recorded in 1989.

However, Dr. Tudravu says since the early 2000s, the numbers have begun to rise more sharply, with particularly dramatic increases from 2017 onwards.

”The numbers that we’re getting are the tip of the iceberg. This again speaks to the same thing. 70% of the numbers that we are getting are males. 29% are female, and 1% identify as other genders. This is the other bit that we’re seeing. We are seeing a shift in the age group. 20 years ago, it was in the 30 to 58 group. This is the group that got HIV. Now we are seeing a shift. It’s getting younger. And even here, these are babies who got HIV from mother to child. So there’s a shift in the age group.”

Dr. Tudravu also addressed the issue of treatment adherence.

While 84% of diagnosed individuals are on treatment, only 99% of these patients are virally suppressed, highlighting inconsistencies in treatment adherence.

He stressed the importance of collective action to combat HIV, warning that failure to address the issue effectively could have devastating consequences for Fiji, potentially wiping out a generation of Fijians, including future healthcare professionals.

Dr. Tudravu called for increased awareness, better prevention strategies, and stronger support systems to manage and reduce the spread of HIV in Fiji.