This week, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Anil Gayan, announced some fundamental changes that will affect public health in the months and years to come. He remained quite vague as to what would be a suitable alternative to the Methadone Substitution Therapy – calling this medicine a Dangerous Drug, and at the same time, saying that the government has become a drug trafficker (Commission on Drugs – take note). In the meantime, the 200 people or so on waiting lists have been left to their own devices.
I, and my colleagues from civil society, believe this is a wrong move, which will potentially cripple Mauritius in the next few months, and ruin countless human lives! While I really hope that indeed a good alternative will be proposed by the Ministry of Health, and things will get back on track (crossing all fingers and toes for this), I wonder why the medical experts of the Ministry are quiet, and haven’t actually corrected the Minister?
What are all the Doctors, Nurses, Consultants, senior consultants, Advisers, senior advisers, Executives, Senior Executives (apologies if I missed anyone from this big family) saying to all this? Why haven’t they advised the Minister correctly? (Or did they try and as a result got rebuked for it?) Why have some of the very experts who helped set up the Harm Reduction programmes (Methadone Substitution Therapy and Needle exchange programme) in Mauritius failed to speak up and explain the importance of these strategies in the Fight against HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C?
Follow this link to a position paper on the programmes to understand the impact it had on Mauritius in the last 10 years alone. The statistics are clear, HIV incidence dropped from 92% (2005) to 31% (2014), crime rate as well went down. The paper also highlights the negative impact of having these programmes terminated.
We are currently fighting to still have these programmes in the form that will benefit the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. The statements emanating from the MoH will invariably increase the stigmatisation, and discrimination of people who use drugs, and the patients on Methadone Substitution therapy – who have been openly branded as Drug addicts. There goes 15 years of advocating for Human Rights!
Doctors, this goes to you, have you forgotten your Hippocratic Oath? The very figures you deal with are actually human lives, people who have families, people who are struggling on a daily basis, often with no money and food – a direct result of poverty because of the failure to secure a job (lack of certificate of character). How come you are remaining so silent? Why not voice out your concerns, based on actual scientific facts? Here are links to scientific articles, one in French and one in English, to help you with your advocacy.
As a social activist, I’m outraged because the voices of the very people these programmes have been set up for are being ignored, and when we are trying to sound the alarm – false information is being disseminated as a form of negative propaganda. What is the reason for this? The cost of the programme was so hastily diffused to brand it as being an expensive burden at the tax payers’ expense. How about the countless lives saved because of these programmes? How about the actual money the state saved from having less people infected?
As a human being, I’m scared for my country because of consequences the decision of the Ministry will have on public health. ‘Accountability, transparency’ are being branded at all meetings – who will be accountable when there is a hike in HIV and Hepatitis C incidence? Who will be accountable for the human cost?