Liberia Observes World AIDS Day

-Stakeholders Want Joint Effort To End AIDS

The Liberian Government through the National AIDS Commission (NAC) has ended series of activities marking this year’s World AIDS Day Commemoration.

First observed in 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed on the 1st of December each year to provide opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died from AIDS-related illness.

Speaking at the official observance in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, health Minister Dr. Whelimina Jallah cautioned Liberians to adapt a positive behavior in preventing themselves from HIV infection.

Dr. Jallah said the risk of new HIV infection among the citizens especially women and young people can only be reduced when positive thoughts are shared regarding social activities including sex.

The Liberian Health Minister cited negotiation for condoms use during sex, reduction of sexual partners and avoiding risky sexual practices as issues that would help the country in addressing public health threat HIV continues pose to the country.

Addressing residents of Grand Bassa predominantly young people, Minister Jallah said as the country strives to test more people; place people on treatment and suppress people living with HIV viral load by 2020, collective effort and a changed in mindset will be required.

In her opening statement, the Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Theodosia S. Kolee said nearly four decades now, HIV and AIDS had continued to pose public health threat to the country and population, with young people, especially women and Key Populations becoming the most affected.

Madam Kolee disclosed that currently, Liberia has 39,144, including 36,000 adults, 22,000 women, 14,000 men and 3,000 children living with HIV in Liberia, with an estimated, 1,900 people getting infected annually.

Amidst these challenges she said, the National AIDS commission in partnership with the National AIDS Control Program and relevant institutions has made significant gains over the years, in ensuring that Liberia is on par with other countries with achievement of the global 90-90-90 targets by 2020.

90-90-90 is a strategy designed by the global body to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of people infected with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of those who will know are placed on treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment can have a suppressed viral load.

The National AIDS Commission boss told the gathering that out of the 39,144 people living with HIV, 13,144 had been identified and tested representing 66% under the first 90, 12,120 persons living with HIV placed on treatment, representing 53%) under the second 90 and 6,593 (representing 52%)  have a suppressed viral load suppressed under the third 90.

“Is this a work in progress…Yes, are we satisfied…No, taking into consideration the timeline for targets deliverables. The Global Theme: “Communities Make the Difference” and a National Theme: “Step In, Let’s Make the Difference Together” signify the urgent need for consolidated and idea sharing to put the country on path in achieving these targets which would significantly reduce the impacts of HIV on the country and people,” the AIDS Commission boss said.

She said ending AIDS is predicated upon how cohesive stakeholders will work within their respective communities, because HIV cases are being reported daily in towns, villages, cities and communities and remain undiagnosed, with women representing 80% and men 20%.

“We are all aware as per the last Liberia Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) of 2013 that Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi) account for 70% of the national HIV burden, but our programmatic data suggests that the virus is more becoming visible in the South East and other counties. With the virus spreading across the country, the stepping in of the communities is critically important to ensure behaviors change,” Madam Kolee said.

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