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Spike in HIV cases attributed to ‘Bluetoothing’

The Ministry of Health says that the sharing of injections and needles by drug users has seen a surge in HIV-positive cases, which the Government says is a serious concern for them.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister for Health Dr Atonio Lalabalavu said addressing the sharp rise in HIV cases in Fiji in recent years is indeed an uphill battle that would require Fiji’s collective effort.

Dr Lalabalavu said injecting drug users have been reported to the Ministry and are said to be using a new method called ‘Bluetoothing’, which means to share injectable drugs amongst users.

“Bluetoothing involves injecting drug users, plunging a syringe of diluted methamphetamine into the bloodstream, drawing first blood, and sharing the syringe with a second person who can then pass it on to a third.”

“This is a very high-risk activity that poses several serious health issues for those involved such as serious adverse effects from sharing unmatched blood that includes severe anaphylactic reactions and death, the transmission of serious infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, bacterial infections as well as passing bacteria into the bloodstream that can cause severe infections from unhygienic injecting practices.”

The Minister called on drug users to refrain from this activity as it can lead to more serious health outcomes immediately and in the long run for users.

He said the Ministry is finalising the HIV Surge Strategy which will facilitate our collaborations with health partners across Government Ministries and our communities to strengthen, prevent, and increase national HIV testing by three percent for key population groups, improve access to diagnosis and treatment, reduce stigma and discrimination relating to HIV/AIDS and strengthen the governance of HIV Response Programme.

He said the Ministry will facilitate the decentralisation of service delivery, testing treatment, and care with oversight provided by specialist sexual reproductive health clinics in Fiji’s three largest Divisions.

“I also want to reiterate that having HIV is not the end of the world and not a death sentence. With treatment, people living with HIV can lead a normal and productive life and have children who are HIV-free,” Dr Lalabalavu said.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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