July 21, 2005

By Masaleen Sehpin
The Kaselehlie Press

A recent workshop was held in the conference room, Skylite Hotel, focusing on Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Project (PRHP). The workshop lasted a week and participants of the workshop include representatives from the HIV/AIDS-STI Program in Chuuk, HIV/AIDS Community Planning Group, in Chuuk, PRHP Project in Chuuk, College of Micronesia-FSM, Women's Interest-FSM, HIV/AIDS Program-FSM, HIV/AIDS-Kosrae, Micronesian Bound/Aramas Kapw-Pohnpei, Micronesian Red Cross Society-Pohnpei, HIV/AIDS-STI Program-Pohnpei, ARH Program-Pohnpei, and the Yap Department of Health Services. The representatives of each organization, which comprised of Physicians, Coordinators, Chairmen, Officers, Nurses, Financial Management Specialists, Community Educators, Youth Program Officers, Executive Directors and First Aid/CPR Trainers from all over the FSM all play important roles where HIV/AIDS is concern.

The Australian Government funded the workshop and PRHP Consultant Jerry Cole states that the program was designed to help strengthen the capacity of Pacific Island governments, NGOs and communities to develop, implement and evaluate multi-sectorial responses to HIV/'AIDS. The recent workshop marks the second time Cole visited the FSM and all those times he had important purposes for visiting. His first visit was to promote PRHP and the recent visit was to facilitate the project.

According to a PRHP report, HIV response in the Pacific Island Countries has increased significantly in the last couple of years. A new regional HIV/AIDS strategy has been developed and endorsed by Pacific leaders. With increased funding provided by some PIC governments, UN agencies, and regional projects such as PRHP and the Global Fund Project, both government and non-government organizations have expanded their HIV prevention and care activities in many countries.

One of the main strategies for the project to achieve this a the national level is through the establishment of the AUD$5 million PRHP Grant Scheme which aims to provide both government and non-government organizations of the 14 independent states of the Pacific access to funds which will contribute to the development and implementation of their multi-sectorial national HIV/AIDS/STI Strategic Plans. FSM is already expecting to benefit from AUD$325,000 in grants funding over the next three years. The amount has the potential to rise if organizations from the FSM continue to be successful in their applications to the Competitive Grants Program of the PRHP Grants Scheme.

According to Cole, the FSM has 28 reported cases of HIV/AIDS and from the 28, 23 were from Chuuk state. Some of the reported cases passed away already but some are still living. Cole states the project is working closely with the Department on Health and various organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS, prioritizing areas that needed to be addressed. Cole believes that HIV/AIDS awareness in the FSM is already implemented, but behavior change is still needed for prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the FSM.