GIS - 01 December, 2015: The importance of HIV testing was the predominant theme of the message of the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Anil Gayan, to the population in the context of World AIDS Day 2015, commemorated on 1 December annually.
At the launching of a workshop aimed at addressing the challenges relating to HIV and AIDS, held this morning at Gold Crest Hotel, Quatre Bornes, Mr Gayan stated that it is most important that everyone knows his or her HIV status as ignorance on this matter can cause death of innocent individual. He is of the view that it is imperative for sexual partners to be absolutely open with each other about their HIV status for their mutual protection. The Minister stressed that HIV screening is essential for everybody since the earlier one knows, the better it is for treatment. “We must nevertheless scale up access to HIV testing services throughout the nation,” he added.
Speaking on the great strides that have been made in the treatment of HIV, Mr Gayan averred that it is fortunate, in Mauritius, to have such facilities free of cost, unlike other countries. According to the Minister, the country has responded fast to HIV through the development of comprehensive plans to contain and prevent the infection. At present, there are some 2,700 people getting their regular antiretroviral treatment.
The Minister pointed out that Government here and around the world are committed to defeat HIV and AIDS. “This can happen sooner,” he said, “only if all stakeholders including the Non-Governmental Organisations actively engage in this endeavour and operate in accordance with the basic fundamentals of accountability, transparency and the obligation to produce results.”
The endeavour to meet the UNAIDS target of 90–90–90 was also underlined by the Minister. To achieve the 90–90–90 targets would be to ensure that, by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. “This is an ambitious target but an unavoidable one as we are determined to help end the AIDS epidemic,” affirmed Mr Gayan.
Regarding Government programmes and policies on HIV and AIDS, Mr Gayan said that the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life is actively engaged in creating community awareness, providing screening services free as well as prevention activities targeting high-risk groups such as sex workers, homosexuals, injecting drug users and prisoners. He moreover spoke of the special activities targeting young people and whose objective is to reduce all risk factors. These activities aimed at encouraging young people to avoid dangerous sexual practices, intravenous drug use and drugs altogether as well as unsafe piercings; follow good hygiene practices; and get tested and know their HIV status.
It is to be noted that the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life is organising several other activities to mark World AIDS Day 2015, namely an HIV Testing and Counselling Day at Blue Bay Public Beach; sensitisation campaign on HIV and AIDS; and HIV screening programme at Flacq Shopping Mall.
World AIDS Day is observed on 1 December since 1998 and aims at bringing people across the globe together to commemorate people who lost their lives to HIV, take stock of progress made in responding to the epidemic and reflect on the way forward to end the epidemic. The theme chosen by UNAIDS to mark the World AIDS Day for the years 2011 to 2015 is ‘Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths’.
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