Message To Commemorate World AIDS Day 1st December 2013
Fri, 29 November 2013
On World AIDS Day communities all over the world stand together in unity, and focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS.
It is a day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. In their honour, and also in solidarity with those who are suffering from the epidemic, and for the sake of our common future, the Seychellois government reaffirms its commitment to our HIV and AIDS response as guided by the National Policy 2012 and Strategic Plan 2012-2016.
We have made tremendous progress and now want to achieve zero new HIV and TB infections, zero mother-to-child transmission, zero deaths associated with HIV and TB, zero stigma and discrimination amongst the population.
It is fitting that the World Health Organisation has chosen the theme “Getting to Zero” to continue mobilising governments, organisations, NGOs, families, the medical and scientific communities in the fight against the epidemic.
The youth of Seychelles have not been spared the social scourges. That is why we have to be more attentive to the needs of adolescents. It is recommended that we provide better guidance for HIV testing and counselling of adolescents, and better care for the young people living with the infection. Adolescents face difficulties and often confusing emotional and social pressures as they grow from children into adults. They are less likely than adults to be tested for HIV. They often need more support than adults to help them maintain the continuum of care if they are sick with AIDS.
Indeed, we have come a long way after the first diagnosis and discovery of HIV almost three decades ago. The prevalence in the general population is 0.87%. There is access to free health, HIV/AIDS information and services. The Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme is the most effective one in the national response to HIV and AIDS. Zero HIV transmission through blood transfusion is an indicator of professionalism in the health system. Partial harm reduction strategies for drug users to reduce HIV and hepatitis infections have been introduced at the Wellness Centre. Training of key health professionals and individuals as well as civil society has helped to address various issues in the HIV and AIDS national response.
We now have to strengthen our programmes. An AIDS-free Seychelles will require on-going political and strategic leadership across all sectors -- especially on stronger collaboration with the private sector, transparent and sustainable partnerships with development partners, and an engaged and active civil society. Working together we can achieve much more.
One area of emphasis is the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
I am pleased that the National AIDS Council of Seychelles has been approved by the National Assembly. Many countries that have elevated the status of their National AIDS Council secretariats have seen significant results in terms of reduction in prevalence. With the development of the new HIV/AIDS Workplace policy, the National AIDS Council will be in better position to coordinate and evaluate the indicators in workplaces.
We have to acknowledge the challenges in the reduction of HIV prevalence amongst key propagators of the epidemic. We must address the needs of marginalised groups to lower their risks of infection and to ensure early access to treatment where required. They include sex workers, men having sex with men, drug users, prisoners and people who live in confined groups. We must also boost the many local interventions that have been shown to work in many countries, particularly in small island states.
I would also like to call upon those who have been diagnosed with HIV to please adhere to their treatment and continue their follow-up.
Addressing ill health is an intricate part of our development agenda. Our response has accelerated some of our programmes enabling us to tackle the underlying social determinants such as unemployment, which cause some people to become idle and entrap them in non-desirable behaviours.
On World AIDS Day we would like to thank the Ministry of Health and its dedicated staff, and all other stakeholders, partners, funders who have enabled the country to combat the infection.
The big challenge before us is to end this devastating epidemic, to truly get to zero. It is possible and attainable. With the commitment of my government, let us continue to strive towards its realisation.