Honourable Minister of Health, Senator Lizzie Nkosi
National Commissioner of Police
Hhohho Regional Administrator
Principal Regional Health Administrator
Senior Health and Police Officers Present
PEPFAR team members
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is an honour for me to be part of this important event today launching two Police Wellness Clinics in the Hhohho and Shiselweni regions.
First, I would like to commend the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Royal Eswatini Police Service for setting up the Police Wellness Centres. It is through joint efforts such as these that vital health and well-being services are brought to communities, improving health care access for everyone.
It is often difficult for people in formal sector employment to find the time to visit a health facility for a comprehensive health/wellness check-up. We are continuously looking for ways to make access to health services easier for an array of populations within Eswatini. A facility specifically tailored to the needs of police officers improves the likelihood that they will seek services in a timely manner.
The majority of police officers are men, and there is a growing body of research that suggests that men globally have poor healthcare seeking behavior, especially for preventive and wellness services, but also when conditions become severe. Further, men in Eswatini are much less likely to be aware of their HIV status than women, and they come for treatment later. Every day that a person delays awareness of their status and start of treatment is a day that they are actively exposing their partner to the risk of contracting HIV. According to the second Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey, or SHIMS study, only 77.5% of men living with HIV were aware of their status compared to 88.6% among women. In addition, the 2018 Eswatini HIV Annual Report showed that men are initiated on life-saving antiretroviral treatment later than women. These centres offer a step in the direction of solving this problem. By bringing facilities to police officers directly, we can improve uptake of health services among men. These centres—located on site—will provide police officers with comprehensive health care, and easy, confidential access to HIV-testing, improved HIV medications that are already available in Eswatini, and other health care services.
Program Director, I would be remiss if I did not also talk about cancer—especially cervical cancer—which is a grave threat to women in Eswatini and must be taken seriously. In fact, Eswatini has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. In Eswatini, more than 75 out of every 100,000 women had cervical cancer in 2018, which was the highest rate among the 185 countries evaluated. By comparison, in the United States, the cervical cancer incidence rate is 7.6 per 100,000 women. I would like to encourage all women here today to go for cervical cancer and breast cancer screening, if you haven’t already; and for all the men here today: please encourage your wives, partners, sisters and mothers to do the same. Further, I would like to urge the men to consider Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, which can both prevent cervical cancer among their partners and improve men’s chances of not contracting HIV. PEPFAR has committed resources to ensuring women receive the necessary screening in facilities around the Kingdom. With the Ministry of Health, we support 137 health facilities all around the country that provide comprehensive cervical cancer screening services.
Health care in Eswatini, including for members of the police service and their families, is vitally important. The United States Government through its PEPFAR program is proud to have partnered with the Ministry of Health and the Royal Eswatini Police Service to help make health services more accessible for this group of people. I would like to thank our implementing partners for their support in ensuring these wellness centres are fully functional and meet the standards required for a full-service health care facility. It is through joint efforts such as these that we improve health access for emaSwati, one targeted group at a time.
I applaud this important step by Cabinet as it seeks to provide high quality health services for these and all the people of Eswatini. The U.S. government wants to continue supporting these and other important health services for the people of Eswatini. We hope to see others in the country showing similar commitment to the well-being of their countrymen and women.
Siyabonga (Thank you)