Pacific Island nations must move more quickly to destigmatise homosexuality if they are to keep the rising international tide of HIV at bay, according to a just-released report by the the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific. Titled Turning the Tide: An OPEN strategy for a response to AIDS in the Pacific, the report urges the often socially and religiously conservative nations to end procrastination and to adopt strong visible leadership, end laws criminalising at risk groups, such as homosexuals, and behaviours, such as consenting sexual activity between people of the same sex. Warren Lindberg Clearly aware of the homophobic forces at work in many of the Pacific Islands, the commission is seeking to convince those nations to enact laws to destigmatise those with, or at risk of contracting, HIV and to put their personal reservations aside. "Changing punitive laws that criminalise sex work or sex between consenting adults of the same sex doesn’t imply approval of these behaviours, but signals our care and concern, and our respect for the dignity and rights of all individuals," New Zealand's Commission member Warren Lindberg told assembled dignitaries including the Samoan Prime Minister. Lindberg was speaking in Apia as part of the region-wide roll-out of the report, which was the work of commissioners from throughout the Pacific. "It is time to move to implementation and action and away from the endless development of un-used or unusable strategic plans that aren’t owned by the end users, aren’t costed or realistic, don’t reflect national priorities, or which are not informed by good surveillance and social research," Lindberg said. He acknowledged that Samoa "is one of the few countries in the region to have a dedicated budget allocation for its national response to HIV and to pay for the life-saving treatment that people living with HIV require through domestic resources." He says the Commission hopes other Pacific Island governments will follow Samoa's lead.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Sunday, 2nd May 2010 - 8:41pm
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