Government renews pledge to fight rising HIV/Aids cases


President Michel addressing delegates at the meeting yesterday

Although infection among the general population continues, the pandemic is hitting specific groups harder, including men who have sex with men and injectable-drug users, as more people above 50 years get infected, “increasing the burden because they have to be put on treatment immediately they test positive”, said the experts.

Mr Michel is the chairperson of the National Aids Council (Nac) and was addressing a meeting it held under the theme Getting to Zero.

The meeting took place in the conference room of the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan diagnostic centre of the Seychelles Hospital.

He said the figures and trends given at the meeting are real, and attributed the increased spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and Hepatitis C to practices like having multiple sexual partners – both men and women; engaging in unsafe sexual practices; injecting illicit drugs, and sharing contaminated needles as well as stigmatisation and fear to come forward for testing and treatment.

He told the delegates to ask themselves questions like “How engaged are we?” and “How committed are we to the Getting to Zero target?”

“Let us ponder on these questions and reflect deeply on what action to take so as to make a difference,” he told them, noting earlier this year, comprehensive reviews of both the previous National Strategic Plan and Policy for HIV, Aids and Sexually Transmitted Diseases were done.

“The results were presented and validated by a multisectoral team that included Nac members. While the report pointed to a multitude of achievements, it also highlighted many shortcomings,” he said.

“We could have done more to reduce the stigmatisation of HIV and Aids that remains pervasive and strong in our society. We should have been more attentive to the evolution of the epidemic in key population groups, and taken remedial measures earlier. We could have done better to foster more positive behavioural change, especially among our youth…”

He said the report has been key in the development of the new National Policy and Five-Year Strategic Plan for HIV and Aids for Seychelles, adding the situation calls for bold and focused interventions.

“With the 2012-2016 plan, more than ever before, the success or failure of our interventions will be measured. We cannot wait that long to see how well we are doing, lest we fall behind the dynamics of the epidemic. This is why it is most important that the monitoring and evaluation framework and mechanisms are established and made to function efficiently. Equally, we cannot afford to wait five more years to see how badly we have failed or how little we have achieved. The cost is too high!”

The delegates had the opportunity to give their much-valued input for the validation of the important documents into which many hours of hard work and dedication had been invested, he said, but told them the National Strategic Plan, on paper, has no meaning until every word is transformed into concrete action.

“These documents should not be left in a corner or in a drawer to gather dust and mould!”
Mr Michel noted it is now almost 25 years since the first case of HIV was reported in Seychelles and so much has happened here since then.

“Unfortunately we still do not have a cure or a vaccine for HIV, but 25 years on, being HIV positive has ceased to be a death sentence. Much progress in prevention and treatment has been made; so much so that the United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids is now calling on all towards Getting to Zero and asking everyone to become fully engaged towards achieving that goal.

Epidemiologist Dr Jastin Bibi said 498 people have so far tested positive for HIV in Seychelles with 229 developing Aids leading to 93 deaths.

A total of 81 pregnant women have also been found to be HIV-positive among a total of 320 infected people Dr Jastin said the “Ministry of Health is following”.

There are 161 people under treatment and 85 infected people have left Seychelles.
This year 38 new cases of HIV have been detected with 19 already having Aids.
He said nine HIV-positive people have died this year although some have passed away due to non-Aids-related causes like accidents.

Five pregnant women have this year been found to have HIV and 42 individuals have this year been put on treatment.

“Fifty-seven HIV-positive people have stopped following treatment presenting a problem because next time we see them they’ll probably be in the wards with Aids, when it will be quite difficult to manage them,” he said.

“In the past we were talking about people in the 25-39 age-group as being the ones most affected but now we see a change in trend with the number of people above 50 being detected with HIV, representing 29% of those found to be infected this year.”

Aids programme manager Rosie Bistoquet said this has been attributed to older people having relations with the younger, who were in the past the ones most affected.

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