The Chairman of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) of Liberia, Dr. Ivan F. Camanor has disclosed that HIV is still a threat to national development.
The NAC Chairman made the statement Friday, during a joint (United Nations and Government of Liberia) press conference organized by the Anti-AIDS Media Network (AAMIN), a media organization mobilizing journalists to increase reporting on HIV and AIDS related issues in Liberia.
The conference was held as part of activities marking the celebrations of the 2015 World AIDS Day (WAD). The day is being observed under the global theme: “Fast Track-Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030”, and the national Theme: “Liberia Fast Tracking: Scale up Treatment, Know Your Status, Use Condoms and End Stigma and Discrimination.” The official WAD program will be organized in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County on December 1.
Addressing the conference, Dr. Camanor said Liberia is currently confronted with “serious challenges including stigma and discrimination, denial of one’s positive status, low level of domestic support among others continue to plague the national HIV and AIDS response.” He said these challenges have the propensity to undermine the overall developmental growth of the country, if appropriate actions are not considered in addressing the situations.
The NAC Chairman said though Liberia is currently experiencing a slow pace of increase in HIV infection (1.5 in 2008 to 1.9 in 2013), a situation, he described, is far better than the 80s and 90s when the infection rate was increasingly high, a more vigorous step to mitigate the spread of HIV and stop all forms of new infections is imperative and unconditional. “Our collective effort is required to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” the NAC Chairman averred.
He added that for the first time, there is a global consensus to aim for 90% of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status receiving treatment and 90% of people on HIV treatment having a suppressed viral load so their immune system remains strong and they are no longer infectious. “These 90–90–90 targets apply to children and to adults, men and women, poor and rich, in all populations—and even higher levels need to be achieved among pregnant women,” the NAC chairman stated.
For Liberia to achieve its shared vision of the global target, Dr. Camanor noted: “Much higher coverage—close to saturation—will be required for outreach programs with sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who inject drugs. Coverage for opioid substitution therapy for people who inject drugs and for prevention programs in prisons must also significantly increase.
The target for elimination of new HIV infections among children requires saturation coverage. “The elimination of new HIV infections among children will also require very high levels of coverage of antiretroviral therapy among pregnant women, exceeding the overall 90–90–90 targets for treatment.”
For his part, Dr. Betru Woldesemayat, UNAIDS Country Director accredited to Liberia, appreciated the broader media contributions to the national response to HIV related issues. According to him, for the world to achieve the total eradication of HIV, such would require a joint effort of all- the governments, media, and civil society – community of people, traditional and religious.
The UNAIDS Country Director who read the official statements of the UN Security General – Ban Ki Moon and UNAIDS Executive Director – Michael Sidibe, noted that the world welcome the tremendous progress in responding to the AIDS epidemic. “This year, world leaders made a commitment to end AIDS by 2030. The Fast Track approach launched last week will enable us to reach this goal.
Almost 15.8 million people worldwide are now accessing HIV treatment. We have reduced new HIV infections by 38 per cent since 2001. We have prevented 1.16 million infections among newborn babies by providing essential antiretroviral medicines. We are on track to provide antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people by 2015 and to eliminate mother-to-child transmissions within the next few years. Thanks to the dedication and energy of many partners including those in civil society, we continue to tackle and remove laws that stigmatize and discriminate. Progress is accelerating,” Dr. Woldesemayat read out.