Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

AIDS Cases Report in the FSM

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): January 2000 - Recent United Nations attention to Aquired Immune Defiency Syndrome (AIDS) has prompted the World Bank to write the FSM President asking how it can assist in a plan of action, according to Ben Jesse, HIV/AIDS health specialist.

The disease, which was first reported in Federated States of Micronesia in 1988, has killed millions world wide; however, to date, only seven cases have been confirmed as being or as having been in the FSM. Only two of these people are still alive, said Jesse.

Health reports from Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands show that more Micronesians are infected with the disease in those areas, said Jesse, who added that in the FSM, the disease is definitely here but has not been reported.

Although, the bulk of the financial assistance to support HIV prevention and AIDS surveillance in the FSM comes from the U.S. Public Health, through Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the FSM also receives technical and financial assistance from UNAIDS.

From 1996-1997, the FSM was entitled to $20,000 per annum from UNAIDS to support AIDS prevention and control activities, said Jesse.

At present, the FSM only asks UNAIDS to assist in purchasing test kits to support our screening capabilities, said the health specialist.

An estimated amount of $5,00 to $6,000 is being used to purchase 3,000 test kits, said Jesse.

It takes about eight to 12 weeks to reach a point where antibodies to HIV can be detected in the body after being exposed. It takes about seven to IO years or even more for those infected to show signs and symptoms then to develop AIDS, said Jesse.

"The time element depends largely on the individual's immune system," said Jesse.

He added that the tests only report those who show a reaction to the test. A confirmation test is too costly to run here, so it is done in Australia.

For surveillance purposes, the FSM conducts anti-HIV screening on some populations groups, including alien workers and pre-marriage clients.

Some of these population groups are, STD patients, prenatal and antenatal clients, blood donors, students taking physical examinations, food handlers, and TB patients.

Although everybody is at risk for IUV, it is believed that government employees who travel off-island and engage in high-risk activities are at increased risk for HIV infection.

Jesse said he thinks the government will now lead a more aggressive role in educating students, but currently the FSM health officials only conduct education upon requests. He indicated that since this is a disease often contracted sexually, cultural restrains have made it difficult to be more aggressive in educating the public.

HIV, which leads to full-blown AIDS, is the world's fourth leading cause of death, according to the New York Times on its website, January 11.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356