‘Leaving no one behind’ was the focus of a national consultative forum on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) strategy for 2016 -2021 which was held yesterday in the presence of key health professionals, policy makers and stakeholders.
The National Aids Council (Nac) organised this forum in line with the UNAids process for setting new strategies for the post-2015 agenda and global target: Getting to zero by 2030.
The main purpose of the forum was to inform communities on the strategies and targets set by the UNAids globally for 2016 to 2021; to identify achievements and challenges in reaching the targets in Seychelles; to discuss strategies to improve national performance; and to obtain recommendations on national strategies for the post-2015 agenda in leaving no one behind.
Giving the status of the local situation in her opening remarks, health minister Mitcy Larue said the year 2015 reported the highest number of new cases of HIV since the first infection was diagnosed here in 1987.
There were 103 new cases – 76 males and 27 females – which is an increase of 13% compared to 2014. The age group most affected was the 25 to 34 years old, representing 41% of the new cases.
“What is also alarming is that of all age groups being touched by the epidemic from 1987 to 2015, those 50 years old and above represents 15% of the total number of new cases,” she said.
She also pointed out the various measures taken by the government for the prevention and control of HIV and Aids and the projects undertaken with the support of international partners against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
She noted that although progress has been made over the years with the establishment of various services and facilities, we still face certain challenges.
“We still cannot understand why, in this nation where the government provides free health care for all its citizens, people do not take advantage of the free testing services and free treatment. This is why we are relooking at our strategies. We know that we need to change maybe the way we do things,” she said.
She added that there is no reason why by 2030, we should not have zero new infections, zero deaths related to HIV and Aids; and zero stigma and discrimination.
“Let us aim to get to zero by 2030 and leave no one behind,” she said.
UNAids country director for Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles Salvator Niyonzima led a presentation on the Zero Draft of the United Nations High Level Meeting HIV and Aids political declaration.
He stated that the epidemic is an increasing danger to adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
Medical registrar communicable disease control unit (CDCU) Dr Louine Morel said the strategies aim to target most at-risk populations (Marps) who are those being left behind such as prisoners, sex workers, intravenous drug users, homosexuals, migrants, children under the age of 15, and adults aged 50 and older.
Chairperson of HIV and Aids Support Association (Haso) Justin Freminot presented Haso’s role in the regional project and the role on civil societies in creating an enabling environment to conduct harm reduction activities.
Present at the forum were ministers, principal secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps, and members of different communities, sectors and organisations.
The presentations were followed by an exhibition and free HIV testing and counselling.
In the afternoon plenary sessions and discussions were held for setting new strategies.