Health Minister looks to end bias against sex workers

Fiji’s Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete says he will see to it that all forms of discrimination against patients, including sex workers, are eliminated.

Dr Ifereimi was responding to findings raised by UNAIDS Goodwill ambassador for HIV in the Pacific Ratu Epeli Nailatikau that found that sex workers experienced major discrimination from health care providers.

Addressing stakeholders at Holiday Inn during celebrations to mark World AIDS Day in Suva this week, Ratu Epeli said 60 per cent of female workers surveyed in Fiji avoided HIV testing out of fear of stigma from healthcare providers.

“Studies have shown stigma and discrimination is still high in Fiji. Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, sex workers and LGBTQI community is still a pressing issue in Fiji especially from health care workers,” Ratu Epeli said.

To this, Dr Ifereimi said, “We have to ensure that we (health ministry) will not discriminate anyone that comes to our facilities seeking help. Also to make clear that discrimination is a black hole that knows no end.”

He said health facilities are also opened to assist girls or young ladies who fall pregnant and need guidance, particularly those who are still in school.

“No girl child or young lady should ever leave school or commit suicide because they are pregnant. We have contraceptives available to assist them and enjoy their sexual life. If they feel they are pregnant or someone to talk to we are opening our doors in our facilities,” Dr Ifereimi said.

“Our ministry has recognised that Fijians cannot have good sexual health in the absence of good reproductive health and vice versa. Therefore there is a need to integrate sexual reproductive health and rights.”

Dr Ifereimi also acknowledged the support of health workers, the United Nations Population Fund and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in their collaboration ensuring the implementation of a rigorous family planning in Fiji.

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