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New HIV/AIDs baseline reports show alarming trend on vulnerability among young people in the Pacific

Suva, Fiji, 24 March 2011—Results of recently completed baseline reports on HIV/AIDS risk among most at-risk young people in three Pacific Island Countries reveal an alarmingly high level of vulnerability among adolescents who are engaging in unprotected and transactional sex.

This research undertaken collaboratively by UNICEF Pacific and the Ministries of Health in Kiribati, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands during 2010 also highlight a disturbing trend of forced sex particularly with young women which further increase HIV risk and vulnerability. Many young people also said that they did not feel at risk when engaging in unprotected sex. 

The findings of these studies, aimed at providing program implementers with an understanding of HIV knowledge, attitudes and practices of young people especially amongst most at risk and most vulnerable young people, in the three countries, will help governments improve policies, advocacy strategies and interventions to reduce the risk and vulnerability to HIV of its populations. 

“With the exception of Papua New Guinea, the Pacific region has a fairly low HIV prevalence with small populations and generalized epidemics. However, the small populations are at greatest vulnerability to HIV as without proper data on the nature of this epidemic, HIV can spread swiftly and rapidly,” H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said during the launch of the reports.  Ratu Epeli also stressed the importance of knowing the nature of the epidemic, tracking HIV risks amongst most at risk populations and improving data collection. In Vanuatu, of the sampled population, 45 percent of sexually active youth reported to have had forced sex with 36 percent of this group reporting their first sexual encounter as forced sex.  Almost 62 percent of the respondents were female. Only 19.3 percent of sexually active youth had been tested for HIV and had received their results.

Forced sex amongst most at risk youth in Vanuatu was reported to be particularly high with 57.4% of most at risk young people reporting being forced to have sex when they did not want to. Similarly, 53.6% of most at risk young people in Kiribati reported being forced to have sex.

In the Solomon Islands, almost 19 percent of the females and 7 percent of male respondents reported engaging in commercial sex for money, food, drugs and alcohol, with close to half of them reporting alcohol use with forced and transactional sex.

UNICEF Representative, Dr Isiye Ndombi also stated that “…Because HIV transmission is linked to sexuality and communication on sexuality requires careful balancing in cultural and faith-based contexts, it is often the last area to secure concrete data for decision making.”

“Since the human rights lens is critical not only as a moral and legal imperative but also as a necessary element of accelerated development, governments and partners – as human rights duty-bearers – when equipped with good data can ensure a first call on resources to address the needs of our most vulnerable children and youth. We all have the duty to reduce inequities for young people, and ensure all a safe and healthy transition to adulthood.,” Dr Ndombi said.

UNICEF is present in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information please contact:
Vika Waradi, UNICEF Pacific, +679 3300 439,
Annefrida Kisesa Mkusa, UNICEF Pacific, + 679 3300 439,




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