Although the Ministry of Health has, along with other related NGOs, increased the number of tests for HIV, they are still not enough to estimate the number of people living with HIV in the country.

It was Dr Anne Gabriel who made the statement yesterday after attending the first meeting of the newly appointed 3rd National Aids Council Board (Nac).

The meeting, held at State House, was chaired by President Danny Faure, who is also the patron of the Nac and minister responsible for Health.

The aim of the meeting was to look and discuss the local situation of HIV, Aids and Hepatitis in the country, among other related business.

Also present was the secretary of state for Health, Marie-Pierre Lloyd.

Dr Gabriel said that Covid-19 caused a reduction in HIV tests. She added that only 6900 HIV tests were done from January to July 2020 where 54 people (38 males and 16 females) were diagnosed with the virus.

She noted that most of the tests were done in health facilities and the figure does not represent the real number of people affected with the virus.

She further noted that more tests, along with future surveys and analysis, will provide better information on the number of people affected and their risk factors for better interventions. Most HIV cases occur between the ages of 15 to 30 years.

Dr Gabriel said that with the international standard calculation used the determine the number of people living with HIV, only countries with large population can achieve the feat as in small countries with small population, including our country with less than one hundred thousand people, such calculation is not applicable.

She noted that we need to do more tests, especially with specific groups of people in the community including those in prison.

“Only six percent of all our HIV tests are done in the community and it is not enough. We have to increase HIV testing in the community and also to bring more physiological-social support to those on treatment so as to help remove the fear of stigmatization,” Dr Gabriel said, noting that Nac will be conducting a survey to determine the level of stigmatisation against people living with HIV/Aids and Hepatitis.

After welcome remarks from President Faure, the stage was set for discussion following an overview by Dr Gabriel on the current situation of HIV/Aids and Hepatitis with regard to testing and counselling, prevention of new infections, treatment and viral suppression, zero stigma and discrimination, and creating and sustaining an enabling environment, including monitoring and evaluation.

The board appointed on August 21, 2020 by President Faure, as the Minister for Health, has sixteen members with Dr Agnes Chetty as the chairperson and Dr Gabriel as the chief executive. The board is for three years.

Dr Gabriel said that the assessment of the current situation for HIV/Aids and Viral Hepatitis is based on the guidelines in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV/Aids and Viral Hepatitis 2019-2023 launched by President Faure at Savoy in May 2019. The primary goal of the plan is to achieve the three symbolic 90s( 90-90-90) by 2023 and that is for 90% of all people living with HIV will have been diagnosed, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV will be receiving treatment, and 90% of people on treatment will be virally suppressed. The plan also caters for zero stigmatisation while making provision for full financial support for its (the plan) implementation.

Dr Chetty said that in view of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the priorities of the new board is to protect all achievements so far in the fight against the disease, to continue to address all weaknesses and gaps and to develop and implement new strategies to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the HIV pandemic.

The first case of HIV in Seychelles was discovered in 1981. Last year, 16 people died from Aids.