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Pacific outrage at HIV quarantine suggestion

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    Pacific outrage at HIV quarantine suggestion - 2-Sep-2008
    HIV positive people in the Pacific are outraged at comments by a leading Pacific health expert, who believes people with HIV and Aids should be quarantined. Doctor Sitaleki Finau has held senior medical positions in Australia and New Zealand - and is currently the Director of Health on Niue. He believes it would be in the best interests of people with HIV and Aids if they were isolated - possibly on an island.

    Presenter: New Zealand correspondent, Kerri Ritchie
    Speakers; Maire Bopp-Dupont, founder of the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation; Dr Sitaleki Finau, Director of Health Niue; Bruce Kilmister, CEO of support group, Body Positive

    RITCHIE: Dr Sitaleki Finau has an impressive CV.

    Born in Tonga, he did his medical training in Queensland, and since then he's become a professor at New Zealand's Massey University and has held many senior medical positions in the Pacific.

    Dr Finau believes people living in the Pacific with the HIV virus should be isolated - similar to leper colonies.

    FINAU: It can be on their island or their own on compound. As we speak, there are six people in the island of Chuck who are being quarantined for six months because they have multiple resistance drugs for TB. So it's being done, and then we have camps for refugees, we have reservations for indigenous people..

    RITCHIE: Dr Finau says there are about 13-thousand people with HIV in the Pacific.

    He doesn't believe current awareness and prevention programs are working.

    FINAU: There is a certain amount of choice, and one of the curious things after all these years in the Pacific, I have never heard of a sex worker who is infected, telling the client not to have sex or to wear a condom because I have got HIV. There doesn't seem to be anybody taking responsibility for the fact that they are carrying HIV viruses and this is one of the things that happen when people are stigmatised and have no other place to go and to have an opportunity to just behave normally for a change without having to be stressed by having to keep a secret so that nobody knows.

    RITCHIE: Maire Bopp-Dupont is from the Cook Islands.

    She contracted HIV while at university and founded the Pacific Islands AIDS foundation.

    She's one of around 100 Pacific islanders who have travelled to Auckland for a three day conference on HIV.

    She's insulted by Dr Finau's idea.

    BOPP-DUPONT: When it comes from someone like that, there really is no excuses, I mean it is very well known today that the isolation of positive people is not a way forward and it doesn't achieve anything, if not taking us back in our credential efforts, It is not able to give us details, so he can give us a concept of his idea, but no practical way of implementing such a view and unfortunately at that level, the details are very important.

    RITCHIE: She says many people in the Pacific have been working hard at improving HIV/Aids awareness - she believes the doctor's comments have put their efforts back 10 years.

    BOPP-DUPONT: In the Pacific and everywhere else it's isolation of positive people means they have done something wrong - there is a theme attached to it, and therefore and also a danger of what they have is contagious. So it is three ideas that are completely wrong.

    RITCHIE: But Dr Finau says his idea is in the best interests of those with HIV.

    He believes isolation will actually make people feel less stigmatised.

    FINAU: What we need is for them to have some mechanism in which they can live without feeling the stigmatisation, and that's basically separating them away from the so-called people at risk, so that they can do their thing without having to look over their shoulder because they have a secret.

    RITCHIE: Bruce Kilmister is the CEO of the support group, Body Positive, He says Dr Finau's quarantine idea is ridiculous and should be ignored.

    KILMISTER: I heard those comments 20 years ago in this country and I mean the gay community joked about it and said that as long as the island we're isolated on is called Manhattan, we don't mind. But the reality is it's still represents stigma and discrimination and even further isolation and that just will not deal with the problem.

    RITCHIE: Maire Bopp-Dupont believes Dr Finau's isolation idea would have terrible consequences.

    BOPP-DUPONT: This usually result in violence against positive people or a person who might be assumed to have HIV within the community. Violence meaning being beaten up, being thrown out of churches, thrown out of villages or of homes. being treated like animals. I mean we've got lots of stories like that and that's what my early days of working with HIV has been is going around and witnessing those stories, we have moved, we have progressed from that. We can't allow someone at level to come back to us and with those ideas, we simply can't allow. It would undermine all the good work and good results that have been done so far.
    Ref: - ABC - Radio Australia - Listen to the discussion

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