World AIDS Day 2021 was commemorated in Mauritius with testing and counselling, through a mobile caravan that would travel around the country, to encourage more people to come forward to be tested, and by a series of activities, which kicked off, this morning, at Dr Yves Cantin Community Hospital in Black River.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurent Musango, and other personalities were present.
In a statement, the Health Minister highlighted that the aim of the commemoration was to raise awareness on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) nationally, and promote voluntary HIV testing with a view to reducing the rate of HIV/AIDS.
Dr Jagutpal indicated that the theme for World AIDS Day 2021 was “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice”. In this context, he underlined that it was imperative to fight stigma and taboo associated with HIV/AIDS through the sharing of information and knowledge among the whole population.
According to the Minister, the country responded rapidly to HIV through the development of comprehensive plans to contain and prevent the infection. On this score, Dr Jagutpal recalled that, even with lockdowns due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there were some 104,000 screening tests around the island.
‘The Ministry’, he reiterated, ‘will continue in its endeavour to ensure that people receive treatment against HIV/AIDS through the mobile caravan and additional measures, including providing them with medicines and transport allowance, among others.’
For his part, Dr Musango recalled that despite the objective of World AIDS Day 2021 to make treatment for HIV/AIDS accessible to everyone, it was noted that only 76% of the positive population had access to treatment. Thus, he emphasised that effort should be made to achieve universal access and eliminate the epidemic, especially since the theme this year was to end the HIV epidemic.
Moreover, he indicated that reports showed that new HIV/AIDS infection was occurring among teenagers aged 16 to 19 years old, in particular young girls who were out of school. He made an appeal for the mobile caravan to undertake screening tests, targeting these teenagers, in remote areas, thus ensuring that there was no new infection.
Speaking about the link between HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, Dr Musango stressed that it was imperative to not focus efforts solely on COVID-19, and disregard other diseases as this may lead to a lowered immunity in persons having other illnesses like HIV/AIDS. On this score, he lauded the efforts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as ‘Prévention Information Lutte contre le Sida’ (PILS) and ‘Aides, Infos, Liberté, Espoir et Solidarité’ (AILES) who carried on with the distribution of medication to people living with HIV/AIDS during lockdown periods.
Also present on the occasion, the Acting National AIDS Coordinator, Dr Mungala Davi Soyjaudah, underscored that while HIV treatment and testing were available, the challenge remained to better inform and educate the public and direct them to proper treatment centres according to their test results.
‘The Ministry’, she underlined, ‘has a vision to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 and, in a bid to make HIV testing more convenient, the Ministry has adopted a policy of going towards people rather than waiting for them to come to hospitals for testing and counselling, hence, the presence of this mobile caravan.’
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of Mauritius.Read Full Story