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Fiji: HIV/AIDS Decree Approved by Cabinet

(Jan. 26, 2011) On January 18, 2011, it was announced that the Fiji Cabinet had approved the HIV/AIDS Decree 2011. (Press Release, Ministry of Information, 1-18-11 Cabinet Approves HIV/AIDS Decree 2011 (Jan. 18, 2011),
.) This Decree “aims to safeguard the privacy and rights of persons infected or affected by HIV/AIDS,” (id.) including by:

· ensuring the confidentiality of personal information;

· creating an environment where persons are encouraged to access voluntary testing, counseling, and support services;

· empowering an affected person to seek redress from professional bodies and the courts if their rights have been violated; and

· promoting the need for everyone to be personally responsible for their own health and that of others through a duty of care. (Id.)

The Minister for Health, Dr. Neil Sharma, said that, as a result of the Decree, people would have the confidence to be tested “without fear of stigma, discrimination, loss of human rights, and breach of confidentiality.” (Id.) He further stated, “people living with HIV/AIDS would not only have safeguards for their human rights and aspirations but have a duty of care and responsibility to the health of others.” (Id.)

The implementation of the Decree would be supported by national guidelines that are to be developed by a National Board for HIV/AIDS, which will replace the existing National Advisory Committee on AIDS. The new board would “lead the national response to HIV/AIDS in terms of coordination, governance and oversight.” (Id.) In developing the policies and guidelines the board will consult with all stakeholders and development partners. (Id.) In addition, “[a]ll levels of the health system will develop and enact their own implementation plans on HIV/AIDS that are consistent with this Decree,” Sharma said. (Id.)

In a statement issued on World AIDS Day in December 2010, Sharma said that of the 354 cases of HIV that have been reported in Fiji, less than half of the people infected are alive today, and that “[t]here are at least 30 new infections each year and at least 5 people [die] of AIDs related complication every year in Fiji … . More importantly over three quarters of those infected with HIV in Fiji do not know they have it.” (Press Release, Ministry of Information, Aids [sic] Battle Need [sic] Change of Attitude (Dec. 2, 2010),
.) He said that the fight against HIV/AIDS “needs to have a change in hearts, cultures and attitudes even though monetary contribution is equally important.” (Id.)

The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation supported the Decree, saying that

[i]t shows that while Fiji may be labelled by some international communities as having derogated from the normal standard of human rights in terms of democracy, the passing of the decree shows that the country is rebuilding and giving fair rights to those that in many other countries are still legally discriminated [sic]. (Timoci Vula, Cabinet Approves HIV/AIDS Decree, THE FIJI TIMES ONLINE (Jan. 20, 2011),

The Decree will now be submitted to the President for signature in order for it to be brought into force. (Id.)