UNAIDS handovers HIV treatment to Fiji amidst the peak of the COVID-19 crisis

SUVA, Fiji/ BANGKOK, Thailand, 28th September 2021 — Through an unprecedented effort that brought together multilateral and bilateral partners, communities and the private sector, people living with HIV in Fiji will continue to access live-saving antiretroviral treatment during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak of the Delta variant.

Following an urgent request by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Fiji, UNAIDS Fiji approached UNAIDS Thailand and, in collaboration with UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, they advocated with Atlanta Medicare Co. Ltd in Thailand to donate ARV supplies to prevent ARV disruptions in the Pacific Island country.

Atlanta Medicare Co. Ltd in Thailand donated over USD $200,000 for first line ARV drugs that will directly support almost 500 people living with HIV in Fiji. UNAIDS covered air freight costs from Thailand. Additionally, the Australian government in Fiji supported the purchase of paediatric ARV treatment for children living with HIV and covered transportation costs from Thailand.

“Despite the scale-up of HIV treatment in recent years, there are many people living with HIV who do not have access to antiretroviral therapy. We believe healthcare is a universal need and should be accessible to everyone,” said Mr Suphadej Amnuaysakul, CEO of Atlanta Medicare Co. Ltd in Thailand.

The government of Fiji received the donation yesterday at a virtual hybrid handover ceremony attended by representatives from the governments of Fiji and Thailand, Atlanta Medicare Co. Ltd, the government of Australia in Fiji and UN representatives.

“This year has been like no other for Fiji and despite it all, we have proudly stood together to secure the continuation of our HIV response,” said Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Speaker of the Fijian Parliament. “We thank this multisectoral collaboration between UNAIDS in Fiji and Thailand for their leadership and donors for their support to ensure that ARV treatment arrived in Fiji without any disruptions,” he added.

In the Asia and the Pacific region Fiji is among the 7 countries that have reported an increase of new HIV infections ahead of other Pacific Island countries. Since 2010 new HIV infections have doubled among young people aged 15-24 years.

“Successful public private partnerships as we have seen today show that by working together, we can accomplish ground-breaking outcomes to protect the health and well-being of people in Fiji and across the region. This type of cooperation can promote health security in Asia the Pacific,” said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.  

Among other factors that Fiji faces such as natural disasters and the climate crisis, COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the country has made in health and development over the past 20 years. “UNAIDS worked quickly to ensure that Fiji did not experience any ARV stock-out and is thankful for the support of the private sector and bilateral partners. Any short-term disruption to HIV treatment can be detrimental to the HIV prevention efforts, as well as preventing AIDS-related deaths. This also includes increasing the risk for people living with HIV to severe COVID-19,” says Renata Ram, Country Director for Fiji and the Pacific.

Currently 78% of people living with HIV who know their status are on antiretroviral treatment in Fiji. When treatment is adhered to, a person’s HIV viral load drops to an undetectable level, keeping that person healthy and preventing onward transmission of the virus. When a person is unable to take antiretroviral therapy regularly, the viral load increases, impacting the person’s health.

PRESS RELEASE: UNAIDS handovers HIV treatment to Fiji amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic