Australian judge told Auckland conference of Pacific states' denial over HIV
Justice Michael Kirby told the HIV focused conference in Auckland which begun on Wednesday that the Pacific region no longer had the luxury of "living in denial".
He urged Pacific leaders and policy makers to tackle the difficult and controversial issues.
Some strategies for combating HIV such as promotion and knowledge of condoms and decriminalisation of sex workers were controversial and therefore often given less priority, Justice Kirby said.
"A lot of painful and difficult steps need to be taken."
There was no cure on the horizon for HIV and the expanding cost of anti-retroviral drugs would put increasing pressure on the international community and national institutions.
More time and effort needed to be spent stopping people from getting infected, he said.
The three day conference, which aims to examine ways of ensuring the countries' laws adequately protect the rights of people living with HIV, concludes today.
The 15 Pacific countries involved are Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu and Cook Islands.
UNAIDS in its 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic identified an estimated 78,000 people in the Pacific - including from Australia and New Zealand - were living with HIV in 2005, representing an increase of 12,000 from 2003.