The 19th Indian Ocean Colloquium on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and addictology opened in Seychelles on Monday under the theme “HIV at the heart of integrated, accessible care”.
Around 200 delegates from Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion and Comoros are taking part in the three-day event and presentations on AIDS in their respective countries started on the first day.
The Colloquium, which has not been held for the past four years due to the COVID pandemic, is an important platform where various sectors involved in all facets of HIV-related work discuss issues, exchange ideas, share best practices and get updated on prevention, care and support approaches.
In her address at the opening ceremony, Seychelles’ Minister for Health, Peggy Vidot, said that Seychelles has made several steps forward since the COVID-19 pandemic but going forward, but has still not fully achieved the objectives set by the United Nations.
She said that going forward Seychelles intends to draw up a new national strategic plan on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“The new plan, which will run from 2024 to 2028, will be aligned with the 2021 political declaration. The WHO has pledged its support for a new plan from 2024 in line with the global plan to achieve zero by 2030,” added Vidot.
One of the yardsticks being used to measure progress made in the various Indian Ocean region countries is the UNAIDS target of 95-95-95 by the year 2030.
The target means that by 2020, 95 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 95 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained anti-retroviral therapy and 95 percent of all people receiving anti-retroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
The colloquium was officially opened by Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan who said that this event “provides an opportunity to share our collective and individual progress and challenges, and to discuss the way forward towards the 2030 goal.”
“The need to collaborate and pool our efforts within the Indian Ocean region has become clear at a situational level, underlining the importance of cohesion to build on our common assets. Learning from past experience, sharing good practice and avoiding repeating mistakes are at the heart of our collective approach,” he added.
Ramkalawan also appealed to partners to continue advocating that Seychelles be included in the world AIDS funds.
On her side, the director for UNAIDS in East and South Africa, Anne Mutjhoni Githuku-Shongwe, said that the Indian Ocean region is facing an alarming reality, underlined by UNAIDS estimates.
“A worrying increase in HIV incidence and prevalence rates. This situation calls for a targeted response, based on data specific to each community and region, irrespective of the country of origin. Indeed, the globalisation of our world calls for collective action to tackle the complex challenges of HIV,” she added.
The HIV virus was first discovered in the Seychelles in 1987, and 1,398 cases have been detected since then, out of which 907 are men and 491 women.
According to the Annual Health Sector Performance Report 2022, from the Global AIDS Monitoring Report, 988 people were known to be living with HIV in Seychelles out of which 630 are male and 327 are female. There are 893 on treatment, which is 90 percent and this implies that Seychelles achieved one of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets in 2022.
The Communicable Disease Control Unit (CDCU) reported 72 new cases of HIV – 64 percent male and 36 percent females including one case of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. There were 27 deaths that occurred among people living with HIV in 2022, well above the pre-pandemic average.
After three days, participants will make recommendations on how to work in the coming year.
Source: Seychelles News Agency