Celebrating World AIDS Day 2017 – “Everybody Counts!”
Events to mark World Aids Day 2017 in the Maldives were held on 7th and 9th December 2017 by Health Protection Agency with the support of WHO Maldives, UNICEF and collaboration of Society for Health Education (SHE) and Bike Maldives- “Everybody Counts” being the theme of this year and aiming to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as a part of the Sustainable Development Goal.
This year, both events were formulated with youth as the target audience and were tailored to share information about the existing risks of HIV, empower them with knowledge to prevent HIV infection and disseminate information about the preventive and curative services available in the country for HIV/AIDS. Youth were also given the chance to voice their opinions and concerns over HIV/AIDS in the presence of trained professionals, policy makers and stakeholders.
The main event held on Saturday was honored and led by the presence of Chief Guest Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports Ms Iruthisham Adam, WHO Representative Dr Arvind Mathur and State Ministers of Health. The event, with collaboration from Bike Maldives, consisted of a bike rally starting from the giant AIDS Ribbon Structure hoisted at Jumhooree Maidhaan, ending at SHE Building.
“Maldives fortunately has a rather low prevalence of HIV/AIDS with rare instances of HIV transmission detected among Maldivians. We need to ensure that this stays at it’s low levels.” Dr Arvind Mathur, WHO Representative emphasized, “To me, young People are Key. Their support and involvement has the power to make or break this campaign. I am very confident that the youth would rise to the challenge by educating themselves on the routes of transmission, risk factors, taking responsibility to prevent transmission and knowing that HIV treatment is available in the country free of cost.”
The WHO Representative to the Maldives also complimented the efforts of Ministry of Health having established Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Services in several atoll and regional hospitals and Ministry of Sports and Youth which has been extending support to youth in all areas. Still, he also reiterated the need for promoting and frequenting visits by young people to receive these services.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far across the world. World AIDS Day every year is an ample opportunity to remind ourselves of the urgent and definitive steps that we still need to take in our efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals.