Reduce exposure to HIV says Tonga’s health boss, as researchers warn of resurgence

'Oku 'i he konga taupotu ki lalo' ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

Tonga’s Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said today there were only a few confirmed HIV cases in the kingdom.

However, he said people should be focussing on reducing high risk behaviour rather than focussing on the small number of cases.

His comments come on the same day that the leading UK medical journal, The Lancet, warned that a dangerous complacency in the response to the global HIV pandemic risked a resurgence of the disease.

Dr ‘Akau’ola was responding to a report on Tonga Broadcasting Commission saying the Ministry of Health said during the Tonga Family Health Association workshop last week  that there were confirmed 21 cases of HIV/AIDS in Tonga.

Dr ‘Akau’ola said they must have meant the total accumulated number of HIV cases detected in Tonga since the first case was diagnosed in 1987.

“It is important to state here that we should not focus on the very few number of confirmed cases living in Tonga,” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.

“We should focus our attention and be more concerned, about the risk behaviours that lead to vulnerable people being exposed to HIV.

“There are hundreds of people traveling from overseas to Tonga all the time.

“The HIV status of these travellers are not known and some of them may be involved in high risk behaviour.

“These should be the main focus of our concern, from a public health point of view

“There also a few members of our population who are vulnerable to these risk behaviour and they should be a focus of actions to protect people of Tonga from being exposed to HIV.”

Meanwhile, British researchers have warned in the latest edition of The Lancet that HIV infections remained persistent in marginalised groups, younger people, women and in developing countries.

While new cases of HIV/Aids have been falling, the decline has been slow enough to mean  the UNAids target of 500,000 new infections by 2020 will not be met.

The BBC quoted International Aids Society president Dr Linda-Gail Bekker today as saying funding and support for HIV research had stagnated in the past decade.

“The future health and wellbeing of millions of people require that we meet this challenge,” she said.

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