THE Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) says that the HIV reports which published weeks ago in the local media has been misunderstood and misinterpreted.
MHMS in a statement responded to published reports and reader comments about the rate of HIV and Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI) in Solomon Islands.
The recent Surveillance of HIV and Syphilis infections among ANC attendees report highlighted a number of important health issues for the country.
Firstly, the report reconfirmed that HIV prevalence is low but that testing for HIV needs to continually increase.
Dr Tenneth Dalipada, Permanent Secretary for Health, commented that “combating HIV is an important issue and we must all remain vigilant to reduce the spread of this infection.”
The other major finding of the report was that STI prevalence (particularly syphilis) has remained high. Whilst the report did not survey men, only women at antenatal clinics, it is in line with international standards. STI rates in women attending ANC are an indication for the entire population and the rate of syphilis infection is likely similar in men and women in the Solomon Islands. Given recent articles published in the print media, there appears to be some confusion around the sexual practices of women in the country. The WHO country representative, Dr Audrey Aumua stated that “the purpose of the Surveillance on HIV and STI Report was not to compare sexual practices between men and women. No men were included in the findings and the report does not suggest that women are more sexually active than men.
This excellent work done by the HIV and STI division is aimed at better understanding Antenatal Care for women in the Solomon Islands and the prevalence of STI’s in the entire population.” The MHMS recognises the need to broaden services for HIV and STI testing for both men and women and will continue to raise awareness about HIV and STIs. As part of this awareness, the MHMS would like to remind readers that HIV and STIs are Everybody’s Business. Anyone can catch an STI and anyone can pass it on, so we ask that people are careful in their sexual relationship choices and if unsure of their STI or HIV status, get tested. Testing is confidential.
Furthermore, whilst there is no cure for HIV, there is treatment, which means people with HIV can control the infection and reduce the risk of spreading the disease.
Lastly, the report confirms what earlier studies suggest, that men and women need to be more responsible about sex. Having just one partner at one time and making appropriate choices in their sexual activity can prevent the spread of STI and HIV.
National HIV and STI Division laek fo tok save long iumi, sapos iu laek fo save abaotim HIV or STI steitas blong iu, den iu mas go long klinik or helt senta kolsap fo chekem blad blong iu an faendem aot seleva.
For more information contact the National HIV/STI program, phone 28210 or the Health promotion Office on 25205 for any interview arrangements.