National Aids Council Meeting Address By President James A Michel Chairperson Of The National Aids Council 15 December 2011

Mon, 19 December 2011 | Health

National Aids Council Meeting
Address By President James A Michel
Chairperson Of The National Aids Council

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now almost 25 years since the first case of HIV was reported in Seychelles and so much has happened in our small country since then. Unfortunately we still do not have a cure or a vaccine for HIV, but 25 years on, being HIV positive, has ceased to be a death sentence. Much progress in prevention and treatment has been made; so much so that UNAIDS is now calling on all towards˜Getting to Zero’ and asking everyone to become fully engaged towards achieving that goal.

How engaged are we? How committed are we to the ˜getting to zero’ target?  

Let us ponder on these questions and reflect deeply on what action to take so as to make a difference.

Earlier this year, comprehensive reviews of both the previous National Strategic Plan and Policy for HIV, AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases were undertaken. The results were presented and validated by a multisectoral team that included NAC members. Whilst the report pointed to a multitude of achievements, it also highlighted many shortcomings.

For instance, we could have done more to reduce the stigmatisation of HIV and AIDS that remains pervasive and strong in our society. We should have been more attentive to the evolution of the epidemic in key population groups, and taken remedial measures earlier. We could have done better to foster more positive behavioural change, especially among our youth¦

The report has been key in the development of the new National Policy and Five-Year Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS for Seychelles. The situation calls for bold and focussed interventions. With the 2012 - 2016 plan, more than ever before, the success or failure of our interventions will be measured. We cannot wait that long to see how well we are doing, lest we fall behind the dynamics of the epidemic. This is why it is most important that the monitoring and evaluation framework and mechanisms are established and made to function efficiently. Equally, we cannot afford to wait 5 more years to see how badly we have failed or how little we have achieved. The cost is too high!

Ladies and gentlemen, you have reviewed the drafts provided, and today you have the opportunity to give your much-valued input for the validation of these important documents. Many hours of hard work and dedication have gone into their elaboration.UN agencies such as UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA and UNDP, in collaboration with IOC have ensured that resources - both human and material - for the evaluation of the last plan and the development of the present one, have been invested with the maximum evidence possible, and by seasoned experts.  I thank them all for their invaluable contribution to our country’s National Strategic Plan. I must, however, emphasise that the National Strategic Plan, on paper, has no meaning until every word is transformed into concrete action. These documents should not be left in a corner or in a drawer to gather dust and mould!

The figures and trends we have seen are real. Certain practices are fanning the epidemic of HIV and STIs and other co-infections like Hepatitis C. They are all linked to behaviour: having multiple sexual partners, both men and women; engaging in unsafe sexual practices; injecting illicit drugs, and sharing contaminated needles; stigmatisation and fear to come forward for testing and treatment, amongst many others¦  

It is in this context that the National Dialogue on Social Renaissance on which we embarked this year has great relevance. The answer to the AIDS problem must come from a wide number of people and perspectives. They must address through reflection and dialogue social mores and behaviour that have a direct impact on the HVI/AIDS epidemic and which can transform established mindset in both prevention and care. Cultural values, social interaction and a new moral psychology will inform the development of health policies that will deliver long term dividends.

Ladies and gentlemen,

My Government has given its commitment to making the resources available for the challenge that we face. The epidemic concerns us all and it is the responsibility of every citizen to contribute in whatever way that we can to its abatement. Let us all rise to this great challenge for the sake of our children and a better tomorrow. Let us all rise to it and overcome it!

I thank you all and wish you fruitful deliberations.

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