Aids treatment costs Seychelles R5 million a year


26-June-2009

There are 126 Seychellois receiving anti-retroviral drugs at a cost of between R3,696 and R16,212 each per year, while tests cost between R4,450 and R12,700. This means one patient could need up to R28,912 worth of treatment every year, the doctors said.

The meeting heard that the treatment has cut Aids-related deaths dramatically, but people must be advised urgently to avoid becoming infected as new cases are rising. Also, older diseases like syphilis and gonorrhoea are coming back and have affected half of all new HIV-positive cases.

President Michel (second left on the left) chairing yesterday’s meeting

The doctors also said the spread of HIV/Aids and cancer-causing hepatitis C is being made worse by the behaviour of people on drugs, for example at the prison.

In response, President Michel told the council he will soon put in place a new administration there to tackle this problem.

This year so far, 13 new cases of hepatitis C have been detected, while last year there were only eight new cases. Before that, there had been no cases of the disease for five years after two in 2002, and the new surge is being blamed on drug addicts using shared needles and syringes.

However, the doctors said the disease can also be spread through sexual relations and can soon affect members of the public who have unprotected sex.

“Hepatitis C does not initially produce signs in 70% of the people who get it, and people can get infected through unprotected sex, so the rate at which the disease is spreading in our society is alarming,” said Dr Jastin Bibi of the Communicable Disease Control Unit. Some of those infected recover while others die when the disease leads to cancer of the liver, he added.

Since HIV/Aids was detected here in 1987, a total of 404 people are known to have been infected, of whom 75 have died. Eleven babies have been born with HIV, and 62 infected non-Seychellois have left the country.

There is a programme that costs R18,803 to keep one pregnant HIV-positive mother from passing on the virus to her baby, the meeting was told. Since 1987 there have been 64 HIV-infected mothers, but since the programme was launched only two babies have become infected – one because it was breast-fed and the other because the mother discontinued treatment.

Some members of the council said there is a discrepancy in the law, which does not allow children aged below 18 to be tested for HIV without their parents knowing, yet they can legally have sex from the age of 15.

Dr Bibi said doctors are not doing enough to offer HIV testing, which he argued they can do without compelling their clients to take the test.

Health and Social Development Minister Marie-Pierre Lloyd said the council members came together in the spirit of Koste Seselwa to look at issues affecting the spread of HIV/Aids and see how they could curb this spread.

She said it is worrying that the most common way HIV in Seychelles spreads remains heterosexual contact, although a growing number of small groups like commercial sex workers and homosexuals, as well as drug users, are especially prone to infection.

World Health Organisation liaison officer Dr Cornelia Atsyor commended Seychelles’ approach and the success of the programme. She said the WHO has ordered accessories for an HIV load testing machine, which is at the moment out of service.

Aids control programme manager Rosie Bistoquet said the council will “reposition” itself to allow other sectors of society to play a bigger role in controlling the spread of HIV/Aids.

Among those who attended yesterday’s meeting were observers from Mauritius.

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