HIV/AIDS Training Opens - Mauritian Health Minister Lormus Bundhoo said Monday that one of the greatest challenges facing countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as they move toward greater integration is the adverse effects of HIV/AIDS on social, political and economic development.
He spoke at the opening of a five-day regional training workshop for 44 senior officials from 11 English-speaking SADC countries in Quatre Bornes, 20km south of the capital, Port Louis.
'The region has the highest levels of HIV prevalence globally,' he said, adding: 'Although SADC member States are implementing preventive measures, the burden is still heavy with the region being home to an estimated 13.4 million people living with HIV.'.
The Minister pointed out that the prevalence of HIV among the adult population aged 15 years in Mauritius was 1.02% in 2013, representing 10,000 people, of whom 5,768 have already been detected as at December 2013.
According to him, the prevalence among people who inject drugs is 51.6%, sex workers 22.3% and men who have sex with men 20%.
Bundhoo listed a series of measures taken by the Mauritian government to reduce HIV transmission, including the introduction in 2006 of harm reduction strategies namely the Methadone Substitution therapy and the Needle Exchange programme, the introduction of the HIV/AIDS Act in 2006, the provision of free anti-retroviral therapy and of specialised care, as well as treatment and support to people living with HIV/AIDS in regional hospitals since 2009.
He said prevalence rates varied considerably among SADC countries, ranging from less than 1% to nearly 40%, and that urban populations are more affected than rural populations.
In the entire SADC region, 53% of those living with HIV/AIDS are women, while an estimated 92% of infections occur through heterosexual transmission.
Consequently, the most affected are the sexually-active adults in the 20 to 39 year age group.
Vertical transmission from mother to child accounts for 7% of total infections and childhood HIV infection is now the underlying factor in the majority of childhood illnesses in the highly-affected member states.
The training programme is a joint initiative of the Mauritius Institute of Health (MIH) and SADC.