According to estimates, a total number of 329 cases of HIV/AIDS cases were detected in the year 2016 in which 319 cases were Mauritians and 10 cases were foreigners. The yearly positivity rates of HIV recorded seem to be 0.36% for the year 2016, which concludes that the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Mauritius is 6671. Statistics clearly indicate that men have the highest prevalence of HIV as out of the 6671 cases 5061 are men and 1610 are women. Since 1987 Mauritius has reported approximately 953 deaths due to HIV.
Key populations remain the gay men and men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who use the injecting system to have drugs. The injecting system has largely contributed and is still contributing to the spread of HIV in Mauritius, as exchanging needles is very common amongst drugs addicts. Men to men sex seems to be very common between prison inmates and talking about sex workers, it has been proved by a survey done in 2012 that female sex workers have the second highest prevalence to HIV which is estimated to be 22.3%. Youngsters also have been recognized to be a key population. Puberty being the phase where their body is already in a stage where there is a lot of changes, it can be noted that it is in this phase itself that youngsters get curious to experiment new things like cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and not to forget many get curious to try drugs and sexual experiments also. Youngsters who are from vulnerable background are more likely to get influenced by peers groups to get into drugs and sexual acts with different partners and just by the fear to be rejected by the peer groups these youngsters get involved in drugs and sexual acts, and unfortunately they may turn into drug addicts and young sex workers, thus exposing them at a greater risk to get infected by HIV.
Key HIV and Human Rights Issues
The protection of Human Rights is important in any case and mostly for people living with HIV/AIDS as this helps them cope with this disease and also helps them live a decent life. But unfortunately people living with HIV/AIDS have to deal with many issues and two major issues are stigma and discrimination. Some are even rejected by their families. These people are often categorised as unwanted by the society and they are subjected to human rights violations such as exclusion and they are even put in quarantine. They are even brutalised physically and morally. Despite protective laws stigma and discrimination remains high in Mauritius and all over the world as HIV/AIDS is considered to be one of the most dreadful diseases across the universe.
Another issue that people living with HIV/AIDS deal with is rejection by the hospital staff members and they are deprived of medical services. Many HIV patients do not have proper access to ART – Antiretroviral Therapy, AVR – Antiretroviral Medium and also to PEP – Post Exposure Prophylaxis. Post Exposure Prophylaxis is a form of HIV prevention, which is not accessible in Mauritius. Post Exposure Prophylaxis is a form of HIV prevention but unfortunately, many people are afraid to conduct these tests, which show that these people need more counselling and treatment literacy.
Mauritius has a number of protections for Human Rights like:
- The Mauritius HIV and AIDS Act 2006 implemented to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and this Act does not criminalise HIV transmission.
- The Civil Status Act which gives a foreigner living with HIV/AIDS the right to marry a Mauritian citizen, which was illegal previously.
- The Equal Opportunities Act 31 2008 which is implemented to stop any kind of discrimination towards any person irrespective of his physical state or sexual orientation.
- The Employment Act 31 2008 prohibits harassment on a person in his workplace for being HIV positive or for his sexual orientation and also protects employees against stigma and discrimination in his workplace.
Access to Justice
Mauritius does have many Organisations and Non Governmental Organisations which are working day and night with people living with HIV/AIDS to help them to have a dignified living, to help them make their place in the society, and helping them in to cope with stigma and discrimination. As it is witnessed, most of the time, HIV patients especially sex workers, are often brutalised by the police department; this is where NGOs step in to help these people to know about their rights and help them have legal supports. These NGOs provide many programmes in a decentralized way to increase awareness of HIV. Also, they help in sensitising people about issues that people with HIV have to deal with like stigma and discrimination almost in every part of the world, workshops are done with youngsters so as to educate them about the prevention of HIV.
The HIV and AIDS ACT 2006 has been implemented to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and in respect to this ACT these people do have access to justice and legal services in an appropriate way but which needs to be strengthened. As HIV has always been considered as a taboo even in these sectors HIV patients have to face discrimination. But we cannot deny that the judicial system is accessible for everyone and even for HIV patients. Also, we would like to bring to attention that according to The HIV and AIDS ACT 2006 every person living with HIV/AIDS has the same rights as a normal person being in the employment sector or the judicial system.
But still we need to have a better approach towards HIV related issues and HIV patients need to have much more awareness about Human Rights, Law and Services available where human rights violations have occurred.
Conclusions and Recommendations
No doubt the Government of Mauritius is doing a good job for the Key populations but still more need to be done like:
- Training sessions/workshops need to be done with people working in the health sector so as to be well aware and trained enough to work with HIV patients. People living with HIV are already very vulnerable and they need to be at least treated correctly. Proper knowledge should be given to health care staffs about Human Rights.
- The Government needs to decentralise the medical services so as HIV positive people can have easy access to medications.
- PEP – Post Exposure Prophylaxis treatment should be available.
- More and more sensitisation programmes need to be organised in collaboration with different NGOs where youngsters are targeted to spread the awareness and to educate them about HIV disease and its preventive measures.
- Actions need to be taken against all complaints of ill-treatment towards HIV patients so as to stop stigma and discrimination.
- Police Department needs to be trained and educated how to deal with these people with a proper communication.
- More access to justice and legal support services.
- More employment should be created in the public sectors for HIV positive people so as employment-related discrimination can be reduced.
- Treatment literacy programmes should be conducted with HIV positive people so as to encourage them for the treatment.
- More openings for HIV treatment and more care and support units need to be created.
- To educate the key populations about their rights and how to have access to legal services. To conduct awareness programmes for them.