Aids risk high in Pacific

May 26, 2000

University students from Pacific islands are a high-risk category for Aids, according to a report by the United Nations agency UNAids.

The report says the better educated, better skilled, healthier and more mobile members of Pacific communities are most likely to catch Aids.

Last year Maire Bopp, a former University of the South Pacific journalism student who contracted Aids from her boyfriend, called for a student testing programme. Ms Bopp, whose outspokenness won her last year's Pacific Media Freedom Award, is now a journalist with Radio Tefana in Tahiti.

Her comments were backed by USP vice-chancellor Esekia Solofa, who said the university would help students get tests. However, Professor Solofa has since said that the university had no policy on HIV/Aids, which he said was a personal matter.

Student counsellor Lai Wainikesa told the USP journalism students' newspaper Wansolwara that about 100 students were counselled on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/Aids last year.

The USP installed a condom machine in 1999, but it was vandalised and is still to be replaced. Students could already get condoms for free from the student counselling service, but few bothered to ask for them.

Since her diagnosis, Ms Bopp has toured the Pacific to advocate greater Aids awareness. Sponsored by UNAids and Fiji's national centre for health promotion, the tour visited community and youth groups and schools from the Cook Islands to Fiji.

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