While the total number of HIV cases is on the decline, Mauritian women are contracting the virus at a greater rate than some years ago. Why is this so?
One of the greatest scourges undermining societies is sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the most commonly known of which is AIDS. Mauritius is no exception: AIDS is a reality in the country, affecting all age groups. However, new reports of HIV cases show some hope. Statistics have shown that 260 new cases of HIV-positive people have been recorded in 2013, as opposed to 320 in 2012. The number of total cases have decreased. On the other hand, the number of females testing positive for the HIV virus has been the subject of worry.
From 2011, the percentage of new cases of HIV-positive people has been decreasing. This has remained the trend for the following years. The proportion of these of drug addicts has also been on the decline: from 93 % in 2005 to 39 % in 2013. Nine years have sure witnessed real changes.
However, this also implies that the proportion of cases as a result of sexual transmission has increased. People in the age group 15 to 24 are the most affected by this. Men still take the greater share of infected persons; in turn, they pass the deadly virus to their sexual partners, leading to more and more females being infected by the HIV. Cases entailing females have come from 25.7 % in 2011 to 32.8 % in 2012 to, finally, 41.9 % in 2013. What has caused for females to contract the virus at an increasing rate? Nicholas Ritter, the Director of Pils, says that it is only normal that the proportion of cases via sexual transmission increases as a consequence of the proportion of cases of drug addicts decreasing, since if it is not via drug injections, the disease gets transmitted via sexual discharges. He also says that these statistics have to be analysed in a deeper manner to have a more accurate evaluation of the situation.
Dr Ahmed Saumtally of the National AIDS Secretariat highlights the decreasing gap between male cases and female cases. This clearly explains that transmission has been made via sexual discharges. Resorting to the screening of pregnant women has allowed the authorities to monitor the situation closely and to implement preventive measures. Now, focus should be placed on a national strategy to lower the vulnerability of women. According to Nicholas Ritter, women are contaminated while being ignorant of HIV and AIDS. Therefore, he suggests that more sensitisation campaigns aimed at women should be organised. Including this in marital counselling is the way to go, in his opinion.
The authorities wish to lay emphasis on the transmission of HIV among men, like drug addicts and men engaging in sexual activities with other men and thereby transmitting the virus to their female partners after having themselves contracted it. The organisation also aims to target females since the latter tend to be more vulnerable than males.