Mauritius marked World AIDS Day 2021 on 01 December 2021 at the Yves Cantin community hospital, Black River under the theme “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemic”. This year’s theme is of utmost importance at a point in time where the COVID-19 pandemic has further widened inequalities among the world populations.
The HIV/AIDS national campaign was launched by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Hon Kailesh Kumar Jagutpal in the presence of the WHO Representative, Dr Laurent Musango, the National HIV/AIDS Coordinator, Dr Mungala Devi Soyjauda, Mrs S. Kalasapatan-Chellen, Ag Deputy Permanent Secretary, Dr A. Dinassing, Director Public Health and other personalities.
Indeed, 40 years after the first HIV cases were reported, AIDS remains a major public health concern due to unequal access to care and the situation has worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic as people living with HIV appear to be at elevated risk for virus-related illness and death.
Dr Hon. K.K. Jagutpal inaugurated a new caravan in view of strengthening HIV Screening in the community before launching the National HIV/AIDS campaign. The campaign this year is focusing on HIV Screening and Counselling Day islandwide to allow the maximum number of persons to know their status. Other activities include intensive sensitization and awareness programmes on national television and radio, and to reach the adolescents and young adults, virtual HIV prevention sessions by psychologists are also planned while HIV testing and counselling in the community are being organized with the close collaboration of NGOs and the Health Ministry.
One remarkable public health success is the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission across the globe. Data submitted by countries are evaluated by WHO before certification of elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission is issued. “In this regard, Mauritius needs to make more effort in the collection of the data on mother-to-child HIV transmission to be able to be evaluated for certification by WHO,” said Dr L. Musango.
The WHO Representative advocated for equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, including COVID-19 vaccinations and services. The close collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the local NGOs, namely Ailes liberté Espoir et Sollidarité (AILES) and Prevention Information et Lutte Contre le SIDA (PILS) was highly appreciated. To recall, NGOs have been playing a key role in the chain to ensure essential health services during the lockdown and curfew. This has enabled the home distribution of Anti Retro Viral medicine to those under treatment to prevent issues related to immunocompromised and increased vulnerability vis à vis COVID-19. Concerted actions can help to confront inequity and improve health.