Stunning Hike In HIV Cases; NAC Head Warns Against Stigma

Health-HIV-Increase

Stunning Hike In HIV Cases; NAC Head Warns Against Stigma

By Ibrahim A. Sherif

MONROVIA, July 14 (LINA) -The Chairperson of the National Aids Commission of Liberia (NACL), Madam Theodosia Slewion Kolee, has frowned on the acts of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the country.

She observed that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV will not solve the problem, but rather compound the situation.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Liberia News Agency (LINA) at the Special Cabinet Retreat held in Ganta, Nimba County, Madam Kolee added that people living with HIV are shying away from treatment because they are afraid of being stigmatized and discriminated against.

She disclosed that there are about 40,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, including over 37,000 adults and 3,000 children.

The NAC boss further noted that at the Commission has noticed that females are the ones being tested more for HIV than males.

Therefore, Madam Kolee encouraged males throughout the length and breadth of Liberia to come out and get tested in order to know their HIV status for subsequent treatment.

She said being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t in any way mean that one is going to die, stating that the treatment for HIV is available in every health facility free of charge and that having HIV is not a death sentence.

Meanwhile, the NAC top official revealed that one of the major drivers in the spread of HIV in Liberia is the discrimination and stigmatization faced by people living with HIV disease, most especially among people involved with homosexuality.

The health practitioner disclosed that the number of people involved with homosexual activities in Liberia has increased astronomically, pointing at the Integrated Bio-Surveillance Survey conducted in 2013 and 2018 as a reliance.

“So when ii comes to the number from the Integrated Bio-Surveillance Survey that was conducted in 2013 as well as in 2018, in comparison, we notice that men who have sex with men in 2013 were 19.8 but such number has tripled and that is as the result of stigma and discrimination because our laws cannot permit them to have equal rights,” the NACL boss asserted.

She pointed out that the increase in the number of HIV positive persons among homosexual is as the result of the laws in Liberia.

She maintained that people involved with homosexuality are in the corner doing other things that the public cannot see and they are afraid to come out to be tested and subsequently treated.

The NAC head said this is because homosexuals are avoiding stigma and discrimination which, according to her, is negatively contributing to the fight against the menace.

“The commission’s stand point is that when it comes to them, we don’t have to stigmatize, we need to encourage them to get tested and subsequently get on treatment,” Madam Kolee noted.

She added: “We cannot deny them access to healthcare, so it is key that all of our brothers and sisters get tested and get on treatment on a timely basis. Testing and treatment for HIV and AIDS is free of charge.”

Meanwhile, Madam Kolee encourages people living with HIV to take advantage of the multi-month strategy been put in place by the Commission aimed at addressing the issue of stigmatization as well as discrimination.

She explained that the multi-month strategy enables people living with HIV to go to any pharmacy and collect up to six months medication.

“We have the multi-month strategy. Since you are not sick, you don’t need to go to the hospital to pick up medication. You can go to the pharmacy and pick up your six-month supply of medication,” Madam Kolee stressed.

Also, the NACL boss encouraged the Liberian populace to get tested and get on the treatment once they are positive.

Madam Kolee expressed her commitment towards the “95%- 95%-95% fast track agenda of the United Nations which seeks to end AIDS by 2030.

She further explained that in the “95%-95%-95% fast track agenda” of the United Nations, they want to see the end of AIDS by 2030.

In 2014, The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) launched the “95-95-95 targets.”

The aim was to diagnose 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 95% of those diagnosed positive and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated by 2030

She assured the public that once those people living with HIV are on treatment, they are going to suppress the virus.

“This is why we say U is equal to U, meaning that undetectable equal to non-transmissible. So when the virus is not detected during the HIV testing, you cannot transmit the virus.

“So again, I want to encourage everybody that HIV testing is very good and that it is important to know who you are when it comes to HIV in our country,” Madam Kolee pleaded with the public.

The National Aids Commission (NAC) is the institution charged with the statutory responsibility of oversight of the National HIV response in Liberia.

LINA IAS/PTK

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