Fiji has asked the United Nations for help with a surge in HIV and AIDS cases, fuelled by the country’s spiralling methamphetamine trade.

At Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s request, UNAIDS Regional Director to Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe Central Asia Eamonn Murphy has just been in Fiji, holding crisis talks with top government and health officials.

In an exclusive interview with 1News Murphy said the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Fiji is “extremely alarming”.

Last year the island nation had 82 HIV/AIDS deaths and there were 415 new cases. This compares to 97 new cases in New Zealand.

What makes Fiji stand out is that the numbers of new cases are doubling every year and it had the second-highest increase behind the Philippines in the Asia and Pacific regions.

Murphy said it was clear the use of meth is responsible for accelerating the rise in infections.

“t’s a serious concern, we are seeing young people, teenagers, dying of HIV today and that’s shocking and alarming…we are seeing 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds coming in to clinics testing positive because of drug use,” he said.

One of the most ominous developments which is accelerating HIV rates in Fiji is bluetoothing, or as it’s known in local user circles, blasting.

Bluetoothing is sharing blood to get high.

One person becomes the host and injects themself with meth. When the high kicks in, another person draws out blood, often using the same needle, and injects it into their own vein. In a group this can be done multiple times.

It is a popular practice in Fiji in situations when there is a limited amount of meth.

One drug dealer said it is a standard way of getting high, especially “in places (where) they cannot afford (meth)”.

Murphy said bluetoothing is not a common thing in most countries, but it is a worrying trend in Fiji.

“It’s not just HIV they are injecting them with, there are other diseases, hepatitis and a whole range of other morbidities, so these are a direct transmission and that accelerates an epidemic like this.”

Research manager at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Ilisapeci Veibuli said a lot of the students her organisation sees practice bluetoothing but people are so addicted they don’t really care what the consequences will be.

“We got a 17-year-old who is using ice and they are doing the bluetooth, he got so sick and he got taken to hospital and he is waiting to see if he has HIV or not,” she said.

Veibuli said meth has changed family dynamics across Fiji, with sexual violence and prostitution adding to HIV/ AIDS rates.

“Women are forced to peddle drugs, we’ve even had women forced into prostitution because there is no money to buy drugs – forced by the husband to get injected so they can perform other sexual activities.”

A drug dealer said addicted men would send their wives to the “top dogs” (syndicate heads) for sex in exchange for meth.

“The young girls, they go to the bosses, the top dogs and sell themselves. They sell themselves just to get a boost, a shot, that’s it, and after selling themselves to the boss to shoot themselves up they will sell themselves on the street,” he said.

Murphy said if Fiji’s situation wasn’t bad enough, there are now concerns for the wider Pacific.

Fiji is a major transportation hub for the region, it hosts the University of the South Pacific and other regional organisations.

“This is a serious worry for all of us that we are going to see an epidemic across the Pacific. It’s a powder keg.”

Rabuka said the Government along with development partners are looking at setting up rehabilitation centres.

“We will fight it, we will,” he vowed.

“We owe it to the future generations to fight it,” he said.