By: Moses M. Tokpah

Monrovia-March-26-TNR:The Liberian Women Empowerment Network (LIWEN), a non-governmental and not for profit organization of women and girls living with and affected by HIV and AIDS is pushing for women and girls living with the virus to get equal right as their male counterparts.

The Vice President for LIWEN, Mamie Evelyn Free-Sheriff in an interview held at her Bassa Town, Mount Barclay office recently, said globally and especially in Sub-Sharan Africa, women and girls are the most infected and affected people who suffer from HIV and AIDS related stigma and discrimination within their homes, families, communities and society at large.

According to Madam Free-Sheriff, LDHS data shows that women and girls are disproportionally affected, representing nearly 60% of adults living with HIV in Liberia.

She argued that an enabling environment for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support requires that there are supportive mechanisms in place to support women’s right and autonomy, including women’s economic environment, sexual reproductive health and rights and a social and economic environment in which women and girls living with HIV and affected by HIV and AIDS are enabled to access quality services and commodities without any form of stigma and discrimination.

The LIWEN’s Vice President noted that advocacy is required where laws and policies hinder universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, or where they promote discrimination against people living with HIV especially women.

Established since 2006, Madam Free-Sheriff said LIWEN envisions a Liberian society in which women and girls living with HIV and AIDS enjoy equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities regardless of their HIV status without discrimination of any kind against them.

She mentioned that the establishment of LIWEN is primarily to serve as an advocacy group and platform for pushing women and girls infected and affected by HIV and AIDS specific needs into the national HIV response and providing an enabling environment where women and girls infected and affected by HIV can access quality services and commodities without any form of discrimination and live dignified lives.

The Network’s mission, she said is to mobilize a Liberian society of women and girls living with HIV and AIDS for a common cause which is the fight against HIV and AIDS and its specific effects on women and girls. “It envisions a Liberia that provides empowerment and equal opportunities for women and girls regardless of their HIV status” she continued. She asserted that women and girls living with HIV and AIDS does not make them any less human.

In another development, Madam Free-Sheriff is encouraging Liberians to voluntarily go to the different health facilities to do their HIV test in order to know their status.

Madam Free-Sheriff continued that HIV is not a death sentence indicating that it has medication. She averred that it is better for every individual to know their status as healthy he/she is than to be towed and taken to the facility, something she said will be late.

She narrated that going to the health facility to do HIV test comes with lots of benefits some of which include knowing one’s status, the provision of condone to have save sex, while free counseling is offered. In addition to the benefits, she said if one’s HIV test result is reactive, he/she is given ART and if one’s HIV test result is negative, he/she is given PrEP.

On the other hand, Mamie Evelyn Free-Sheriff is also encouraging everyone that comes across LIWEN’s awareness team that goes in the community to conduct HIV test, and has not been tested to make used of the opportunity.

She disclosed that besides the health facility, her institution is involved with a project titled, “Meeting Target and Maintaining Epidemic Control project (EPiC)” that gives opportunity to people in a targeted community to do their HIV test to be able to know their status.

The LIWEN’s Vice President stated that the project is being implemented in the St. Paul River District where every team of the organization takes along a health worker to conduct HIV test and if the result is reactive, the affected person is referred to the health facility.

Another opportunity according to her the institution gives to a person affected with HIV is it links him/her with someone that reminds them about going to the facility during their appointment day.

She used the occasion to call on the Government of Liberia to allocate money in the national budget for national HIV response in the country in the absence of donors’ funding.

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