His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has urged parents to educate their children about the deadly epidemic of HIV/AIDS and the various issues related to it, as HIV education begins from home. Ratu Epeli, who is visiting Sigatoka as part of his nation-wide anti- HIV AIDS campaign, told students and teachers of Sigatoka Methodist College that “HIV/AIDS is very much a fact in all our lives today.” He said students must be taught about these issues now in school so that they make responsible decisions in their own lives and inform others about this disease at the same time. “Parents should by now have realised after 40 years that HIV/AIDS is not going to go away by just ignoring it and by avoiding talking about it. HIV/AIDS can only go away by our combined response in educating first the family and next the public at large about this deadly epidemic, for which there is no known cure,” Ratu Epeli said. The President said that the public at large is being educated about HIV/AIDS but it is the parents’ responsibility to play their part. “Parents must reject stigma and discrimination. They must communicate openly about the risks and they must change behaviour norms. We already know what works and what does not work about the response to HIV/AIDS and no parent will ever accept the sad fact that with AIDS there is a possibility, a sad one at that, that their children could go before they do. “Their children are part of the 15-29 and the 30-39 age groups. These two groups are considered the youth who are the most sexually active and they make the bulk of the working population and the most vulnerable. Parents should talk to their children about family values, about being caring and about being careful, about abstinence and practicing safe sex,” Ratu Epeli added. He stressed that teachers are there to assist in the teaching process but HIV education must begin with the parents. “Ensuring safer sex reduces the spread of HIV. We need to get more people, particularly the youth, to adopt safer sexual behaviours. The catch word is to ‘get it on before you get it on,” he said. He also called on everybody to work together in ensuring there are zero new HIV infections, zero HIV discrimination and zero HIV/AIDS related death. Ratu Epeli re-emphasised the need for Government, the business community, faith based organisations and all Fijians to work together in raising the much needed awareness across all levels of our society. With international campaigns against the deadly disease gaining momentum, the support of the nation was critical in minimizing the risks associated with the spread of the disease. "You, parents have a more important role to play as the awareness needed to start from home," Ratu Epeli added.