National AIDS Council Meeting 15th December 2010
Wed, 15 December 2010
Speech by President James A Michel, the chairman of the National AIDS Council (NAC),
at the council’s meeting on 15th December 2010
International Conference Centre Seychelles
Members of the National AIDS Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The timing of this meeting is anything but fortuitous. It comes nearly six months after the 18th World AIDS Conference in Vienna, one month after the Indian Ocean Conference on HIV and AIDS, two weeks after the commemoration of World AIDS DAY 2010 and two weeks before 2010 comes to an end. It is an opportune time to take stock of the situation, especially in relation to the theme that has permeated all the HIV and AIDS discussion throughout 2010 - UNIVERSAL ACCESSâ€.
By â€œuniversal accessâ€ we mean that everyone who requires treatment, care and prevention services for HIV and AIDS should get them without hindrance. It is a principle that is generally recognised and accepted but, quite often, not translated into action. For many, it may mean struggling to find the resources for antiretroviral treatment and other HIV and AIDS services.
In Seychelles, we are in a much different situation. Our Constitution recognises health as a right of every citizen and the provision of free primary health care in state institutions. Consequently, â€œuniversal access signifies that every Seychellois suffering from the HIV/AIDS virus has equal opportunity for treatment and care as anyone else with any other disease. We achieved universal access to treatment and care before anyone else in the region because our health care system was designed for universal access to treatment for all diseases and equal opportunity FOR ALL from its inception. Very often this is taken for granted. But now and then, we ought to pause and realise how fortunate we are to have universal access to health care. This is one of the several Millennium Development Goals we have achieved, and it is a source of pride for our country.
Since the beginning of the decade, antiretroviral treatment has been available free of charge in Seychelles. We continue today to provide treatment and care to all those who need them at a cost of 10 million rupees a year. Universal access is not only a matter of life and death; it is also a matter of compassion and reaching out.
Despite the remarkable strides we have made in HIV/AIDS treatment and care, there are many issues concerning prevention that we need to work on. Stigmatization, although not institutionalized, does exist in our country. And we need to address it with vigour. We need to educate our people further, iterating that all citizens, including those afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus, have equal rights to employment, education, housing, etc. But HIV-positive persons, too, have to, themselves; try to seek employment, education, housing etc. just like anyone else, without needing to put forward their HIV status as a fast-track bargaining chip.
Secondly, we must take responsibility for our health and well-being. There are today 307 people living with HIV and AIDS. 28 new HIV-positive cases and 14 new AIDS cases have been reported from January to November of this year. During the same period, 6 AIDS-related deaths have been recorded.
The statistics are a wake-up call and an appeal to each and every individual conscience. We must change our lifestyle and comportment! We must desist from irresponsible behaviour. We must forsake practices and habits that put our own lives and others at risk. And of equal, if not greater importance, we must eradicate the scourge of drugs in our midst. It is destroying our society. It fuels crime. It gives rise to HIV/AIDS and other serious communicable diseases.
Government can put as much resources as possible in the care and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, but we will never win the fight if there is not a change in mindsets, in attitudes. Key to this is education, respect for oneself, for others and society at large, and the cultivation of moral and spiritual values. We must be united in this fight to bring about a change in mindsets and attitudes and, ultimately, reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in our country. We are all concerned: governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and faith-based organisations. We share the same objectives, the same concerns, because the future of our country and our young people remains foremost in our hearts.
And it is to those objectives that we re-dedicate ourselves today. All of us gathered here. Let us coordinate our efforts as never before.Â Let us all work together to eradicate the scourges that afflict our society. Together, we can win the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I thank you and God bless you all!