01 December 2022 | Health.
My fellow citizens,
The commemoration of World AIDS Day 2022 reminds us once again that even 35 years since the first case was diagnosed in our country, we are still facing HIV infections as major public health challenge.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Equalize”. It is a call for action for us to come up with practical ways to ensure that everyone is well-served in terms of HIV testing, prevention and treatment.
Like other countries, we are facing HIV in a world which has not yet got rid of COVID-19. Let us remember that HIV is a pandemic too. It has not gone away - it remains with us. Whatever progress we have made as a country in trying to end the AIDS pandemic could now be at risk of being lost if we are not careful.
Let us think about HIV for a moment. Let us think also about how we may put ourselves at risk by what we do or do not do. Think about how we can turn the tide by changing our behaviour and doing the right thing at the right time. It takes just a moment to let our guard down and get infected with a disease which lasts a lifetime.
In June 2021, I committed our country to the United Nations political declaration on HIV and AIDS for ending inequalities and getting us on track to end AIDS by 2030.
It is clear that our local response to the AIDS pandemic has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, with fewer HIV tests done, fewer people diagnosed and over 200 persons living with HIV got lost to follow up. Twenty-nine (29) Seychellois living with HIV or AIDS succumbed to AIDS, COVID-19 or other diseases.
Thirty-five years on, we still have inequalities in the HIV response even if testing, prevention and treatment services are offered free of charge. Almost one-fifth of new infections in 2021 were in young people aged 15 to 24 years old and one fifth in those aged 55 years and above.
One third of new infections were in key populations which include men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and prisoners, those people in our population who face barriers like discrimination and stigma.
We need to review and improve coverage of dedicated prevention and care programmes in all those groups.
With a sustained and concerted effort to tackle the subtle and not so subtle inequalities which drive the epidemic, we should be able to end AIDS in our country. So, on this World AIDS Day, let us remind ourselves that inequalities felt by one group of persons should concern all of us, no matter who we are.
I would like to take this opportunity to call upon our fellow citizens who have been diagnosed with HIV, to continue taking their treatment and doing their regular health check-ups. For those who are no longer coming for follow up and treatment, I urge you to come back and avail of the free treatment, care and support. We are blessed that our country offers free access to HIV related health care and support.
Let us work harder and harder every day for a world without HIV, without AIDS, without epidemics and pandemics and without inequalities.