HIV/Aids response in Seychelles in the spotlight |30 May 2023
A multi-stakeholders meeting took place yesterday to evaluate our country’s HIV/Aids and the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) responses.
The half-day consultative meeting, held at the Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa at Beau Vallon, was organised by the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) in collaboration with the Seychelles National Assembly committee for communicable diseases-HIV/Aids and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), the Ministry for Health and the HIV and Aids Support Organisation (Haso).
It took place under the theme: ‘Stronger Parliamentary SRHR Engagement – A lens on HIV/Aids Response in Seychelles’.
The evaluation is part of the SADC-PF Governance project with the overall objective of promoting access to SRHR in Southern Africa within the universal health coverage context.
The aim is to improve oversight, representative, legislative and budgetary role of parliamentarians in the SADC region in general, and female parliamentarians in particular, in the field of SRHR and HIV/Aids Governance, with human rights and democracy also recently added to the targeted outcomes.
It was opened by President of the SADC-PF and Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Hon. Roger Mancienne, in the presence of the secretary general of SADC-PF, Hon. Boemo Sekgoma, the chairperson of the Committee on Communicable Diseases-HIV/Aids & SRHR, Hon. Rosie Bistoquet, representatives of ministries, departments, the civil society, other partners and guests.
The SADC-PF Governance project had been running over a four-year period from 2019 to end of March 2023 and is being implemented in collaboration with 12 SADC member States participating parliaments namely Seychelles, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Madagascar and Namibia.
It is the second HIV/Aids and SRHR programme to be held following the first held from 2015 to 2018 and was once again well received in Seychelles because the issue of SRHR, HIV and Aids was still deemed to be of paramount importance, and thus especially necessitating the intervention of parliament as an institution.
At the termination of the project, member states are obliged to conduct an assessment on the four-year implementation in terms of successes, failures, challenges and lessons learned.
Under the project various capacity building workshops, roundtable discussions, visits, interactions with line ministries and stakeholders and participation in various regional and virtual forums were organised for parliamentarians and the SRHR researcher in order to promote the SRHR, HIV and Aids and the democracy and human rights agenda and contribute to the fight against these same causes at the parliamentary level.
The multi-stakeholders meeting yesterday focused mainly on SRHR in the face of HIV and Aids due a considerable increase of HIV-positive persons being lost to follow-up, especially during the peak of Covid-19, resulting in serious consequences as a result of discontinuation of treatment, drug toxicity, SRH complications, treatment failure due to poor adherence, and drug resistance resulting in an increased risk of co-infections and death.
In his opening speech, Speaker Mancienne expressed his happiness at the way the project was implemented at the National Assembly further to the way it reached out to the nation in general, including the support it received in various areas.
He reminded that it was important to note, that parliament, as an institution, has a crucial role to play in dealing with challenges of our time and the advancement of the SRHR agenda in the face of HIV/Aids is just such a challenge.
“It is reassuring to see therefore, that parliaments have entered the fray and that they have conducted it with noble effort and with success. Your positions as leaders in society and your oversight functions have played a role in exacting and keeping attention focus on the subject, in scrutinising, influencing polices and stimulating national responses,” said Speaker Mancienne.
He noted that HIV and Aids have sprung through the concern of our nation as it did for the rest of the world and resisting them demands the effort of everybody in terms of support, change in behaviour and for those on treatment to continue with their treatment.
Taking the podium, Hon Sekgoma urged the parliament and stakeholders to work together to domesticate initiatives that relate to SRHR governance of HIV and Aids as domestication of instruments will further allow key populations to be respected.
“We are confident that the parliament of Seychelles will continue to develop lasting friendship and bonds of solidarity on this particular project,” said Hon. Sekgoma, who noted that the project is about participating in democracy for exercising integrity, in terms of no one can be deprived of their rights.
In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) released the '90-90-90' Initiative with the goals of 90% of all individuals with HIV knowing this diagnosis, 90% of those diagnosed on treatment, and 90% of those on treatment achieving suppression of their virus.
The report also disclosed that while 755 patients in the country were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), a total of 699 or 81% of known people living with HIV were ART at the end of 2019. Of those, 91% were virally suppressed. In 2019 there were 18 cases of drop-out recorded and 49 lost to follow-up.
Hon. Bistoquet said that in a very small society like Seychelles of less than 100,000 people the percentage of people on ART lost to follow-up is very significant, as HIV in Seychelles is a concentrated one driven by three main modes of transmission namely, heterosexual, followed by the IDU and MSM.
“We must act and act decisively in discharging our mandate. That way, we will be able to shape the HIV/Aids response landscape within our own country and within our SADC region,” Hon. Bistoquet said.
She noted it is crucial for HIV patients to have regular and long-term care in the form of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and SRH follow-up, important components of HIV care. Patients who are lost to follow-up while on treatment compromise their own health and the long-term success of ART programmes.
She later said that the outcome of the meeting will be spilled over into the next programme.
The meeting was marked by discussions and presentations on HIV and Aids.