ADDRESS BY HON D. GOKHOOL,
MINISTER OF EDUCATION & HUMAN RESOURCES
Half Day Workshop
“Warriors Against AIDS/SIDA VIRUS”
Wednesday 23 July 2008 at 09 00 at the
Hon S. Faugoo, Minister of Health and Quality of Life
Mr K. Sooknah, Project Coordinator of Mauritian Wildlife Club
Mrs S. Ramful, Ag Rector MGSS Flacq
Members of Teaching and non teaching staff
Ladies and Gentlemen
And Dear Students
Good Morning and thank you for your invitation
I am especially glad to be here with you today for this workshop organised by the
Mauritian Wildlife Club on HIV/AIDS.I commend this very laudable initiative.
Substance abuse and HIV/AIDS are global health issues and concern the whole population and
require national strategies involving all sections of the population.
Globally, the HIV and AIDS epidemic remains a major public health, social, economic
and development challenge. Many countries are struggling desperately to deal with this
“ill of the century” and yet little progress has been achieved.
The region worst affected remains sub-Saharan Africa, with the highest prevalence in
Southern African. Figures are alarming with some countries having a prevalence of 15 –
35%. The rates of HIV infections in many of these countries (Kenya, Zimbabwe,
Uganda, peaked in the late 1990, there followed a period of leveling; and some countries
even experienced a relapse.
I would not like to dwell on the stastitics on HIV and AIDS and its
victims. Suffice it for me to say:
HIV and AIDS are directly affecting millions of children, adolescents and young
people and particularly women. What is more dramatic is the stigma usually
associated with it because of ignorance and cultural and religious beliefs.
The situation in Mauritius does not seem to be so alarming .but we cannot remain
Mauritius is geographically situated in this region but we must than God that the
situation is not that alarming though there is no reason to be complacent. Mauritius
still remains spared from this pandemic at that scale. From 1987 when the first
HIV/AIDS case was reported up to the end of 2005, there have been 2161 reported
cases with 361 females and 1648 males. 145 of these have died, leaving 1900 people
living with the disease; 19,3% of them are in the 15 – 24 age group and 56.1% in the
25 – 39 years age group. Mauritius has a general prevalence at 0.5%. This makes
Mauritius among the lowest HIV prevalent country in the African region. But we
cannot remain complacent.
What should be of greater concern to us is that the number of newly infected has been
increasing regularly and progressively since 2000. More than 90% of the new infected
individuals are infecting drug users. The age distribution shows that the majority are in
the 25-39 years age group. At present, up to 90% of all new HIV infections are
contracted through injecting drug use. Also, the incidence of HIV positive pregnant
women has increased over the past few years – from 6 in 2000 to 31 in 2005.
In spite of the progress achieved by countries to contain the spread of this pandemic,
there is need for urgent action.
HIV and AIDS remains an exceptional threat and unless we act now and effectively, the
world may be facing an unprecedented human devastation.
The Government of Mauritius has been responsive to this threat and set up the National
Aids Committee under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister himself. Sustained
leadership, improved planning, scaling up prevention, care of those affected, treatment
coverage and funding for the responses to AIDS needs and implementation plans, civil
society involvement are the immediate concerns of the apex committee.
There is also the Multisectoral Advisory AIDS Committee. Recently, there has been the
setting up of the country Coordinating Mechanism – a multi-sectoral partnership that
plays a crucial role in the Global Fund process. This body is composed of representatives
from a wide variety of sectors – specifically, Government, Non Government and
community-based organizations, academic and educational institutions, people living
with the diseases, private sector, religious and faith-based organizations, and in-country
multi-lateral and bilateral development partners.
Education can play a decisive role in our campaign agains HIV and AIDS. Our vision is
for quality education for all, but there cannot be quality education without a healthy
The national response to HIV and AIDS can be seen in the Education sector which is an
area of concern for my Ministry. There is little doubt that education is one of the most
effective interventions against this global scourge. Some have even described education
as “social vaccine against HIV and AIDS”. Education is an agent of change – social
change. If we bring a change in attitudes and behaviours of children right from an early
age regarding sex and sexuality, the battle can be won.
My Ministry has come up with a number of initiatives in dealing with the HIV and AIDS
issue. It works very closely with the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life in an
advocacy and scaling up programmes in our schools. Sensitisation is the key to
prevention and the more children and youngsters are aware, the more informed decision
they can take. My Ministry works in partnership with NGOs like Pils to devise strategy
escaping the grip of HIV and AIDS. We have a Drug and Health Unit at the Miistry that
informs policy and practice on Health education including HIV and AIDS.
A major intervention measure adopted by my Ministry in the fight against HIV and AIDS
is its integration into the Curriculum both at the primary and secondary level. The basic
message is For Healthy living,Know your Body, Respect your Body
Of course, we need to be cautious in the way HIV-related knowledge, practices and
attitudes are communicated to our children given the social and religious specificities of
our society. We may differ in the way we deal with this problem compared to other
countries as nobody will argue with the fact that the curriculum should be based on
country-specific and age-specific approach/framework.
WE are looking at curriculum processes in a more systematic and sustained dimension.
It is in the context of Decade of Education for Sustainable Development where emphasis
is laid on human rights, empowerment and social development, social support, focusing
on inclusion poverty alleviation, a protective and safe environment and a teaching and
learning environment for a balanced health including HIV and AIDS impact mitigation.
This will also include the teaching of life skills.
Teaching/learning resource materials with HIV and AIDS knowledge integrated in them
are being developed presently. Training of teachers competent in the teaching of life-
skills and HIV/AIDS is being carried . In our campaign, we have carried out the
sensitization of the teaching and non teaching staff in the secondary schools and more
will be done in capacity-building of the school personnel to ensure the dissemination of
information and effective transaction of the curriculum.
We will also rely on focused activities related to HIV and AIDS through school-based
programmes. These are important in reaching a great majority of children and young
people. Ultimately, this will have an impact on the community. We should not forget
that adults are role models for these children and a proper attitude and behavior among
adults will go a long way towards changing attitudes and beliefs in society. School-based
programmes will equip staff with teaching and learning tools. Children will acquire
accurate information on reproductive health and family values.
At the Ministry we have decided to make all our schools Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug
free. We will soon start a poster campaign on this theme.
But the time has come to move away from ad-hoc interventions to a more sustained and
professionally led campaign for our student community. My Ministry will address this
issue shortly with the help of the relevant authorities.
I thank you for your attention and wish you a very informative and successful workshop.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008