A panel discussion was held on Thursday 28th September 2017 as a side event to the 6th meeting of African Health Ministers from small island developing states, which took place at the Savoy Hotel in Seychelles between the 26th and 29th September 2017.
The theme for the evening was ‘90-90-90 and beyond: Laws, policies and strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in small island developing states by 2030’. This special event was chaired by Embassador Marie-Pierre Lloyd who also assumed the health portlio in her days as a minister.
The 90-90-90 targets was introduced by UNAIDS in efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030. These goals aim for 90% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2030.
Leading the discussions on new ways to tackle this target was the UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibe. Next to him on the head table was the Regional Director for WHO/AFRO Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Minister for Health of Seychelles Mr Jean Paul Adam, the Minister for Health and Quality of Life from Mauritius Dr Anwar Husnoo, the Minister for Health of Cabo Verde Dr Arlindo do Rosario, the head of delegation of comoros Mrs Moinou Ahmed Sayeed Assani and the head of delegation of Sao Tome and Principe Mr Celsio.
Mr Sidibe encouraged the health ministers, WHO representatives and all members of the audience to shed conventional ways of ‘thinking outside boxes’ and completely remove all boxes to explore new and strong strategies to eradicate the epidemic.
“I am privileged to be here tonight, as the world faces a seismic change. We are at a defining moment which reflects more inclusivity, meaning we need to continue working in a more horizontal manner to achieve the 2030 goals,” Mr Sidibe said, setting the tone for the evening. “If we want to make a difference, we need the things which are being brought to the table tonight,” he concluded invited the audience to share their thoughts and suggest many new possible strategies that goes further than advocacy.
Discussions flowed easily with many of the health ministers thanking Mr Sidibe for his words of encouragement and hope. “One of the first things I learnt about upon my appointment as minister for health only 8 months ago was the 90-90-90 targets,” Dr Husnoo said addressing those present. “I was genuinely concerned about how I would reach this target. How would we reach 90% of affected and key populations? But, listening to Mr Sidibe I hear a message of hope and I can ascertain that we will make it!”
The discussions took an astute turn with participants requesting for more than just treatments to prolong life and suppress viral load but a cure for the disease and the inclusion of finance ministers within decisions taken to facilitate acquisition of resources in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Addressing the latter, a subject discussed intensively throughout the meeting, the health minister of Seychelles brought forth is knowledge as a former finance minister.
“A minister of finance, or whoever is deciding resource allocation will always have more requests than ability to finance,” Minister Adam said of the role of a finance minister, which he compared to someone tackling a jigsaw puzzle that has so many pieces that never quite fits.
“It is a question of how you make the best picture with the pieces that you have.” However, Minister Adam reassured the health ministers that a close collaboration with finance ministers is not impossible but something that should continuously be worked at and pushed for.