Reporting on Pacific Issues

Though few, Palau's HIV cases should be taken seriously

16/09/2010 15:25

 KOROR (Maripet L. Poso, Palau Horizon) — Although the prevalence of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the country is low -- just three cases – Palau can learn from other countries’ approach in suppressing the disease. This was the focus of Japanese HIV Expert Dr. Shinichi Oka’s lecture on HIV on Friday at the MCS Conference Room in Malakal.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and former President Kuniwo Nakamura have invited Dr. Oka to give his presentation on HIV clinical research to the country’s medical professionals, researchers and members of the community. Oka is the Director General for AIDS Clinical Research for the National Center for Global Health in Japan.

“Dr. Oka gave us the whole Asia Perspective on the HIV,” Minister of Health Stevenson Kuartei said in an interview. “While the prevalence of HIV in Palau is very low, we should learn from other countries that have low prevalence of HIV, like Mongolia, and be able to be specific in our approach.”

Oka explained in his presentation that in Mongolia they were able to isolate one group that came from Russia. They noticed that the new cases in Mongolia were from that group so they isolated the group and gave them instructions.

Oka also showed the statistics and strategies on HIV approach of other Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan.

“In Palau, even though we have very few cases, we need to study them and find out how they got it,” Kuartei said. “We need to actively be involved with them so they don’t give it to others.”

Kuartei also stressed the importance of testing. “But because of lack of resources and so that people will not be afraid to come, testing should be voluntary, not mandatory,” he said.

According to Johana Ngiruchelbad, HIV/STD Program Administrator of the MOH, Palau has only three people living on the island who are infected with HIV.

“Since we began testing, we tested about eight people positive of HIV,” Ngiruchelbad said in an interview. “Some have decided to leave the country, some have died. Only three were left.”

She said there could be other people who have never been tested who have HIV and living in the community. But those three who are identified are under the care of the hospital.

“They’re on medication,” Ngiruchelbad said.

She added that it’s nice to hear someone talk about HIV because people get tired of her telling them all about it.

“The information is almost the same, but it’s helpful in a way that other people get to hear it from someone else besides me,” Ngiruchelbad added.

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