The Informer (Monrovia)

19 June 2009

Liberia: Catholic Church Intensifies Crusade On HIV/Aids in Bong

As part of its strive to complement government and global efforts to create an increase awareness on the prevention of the HIV and AIDS pandemic the Catholic Heath Secretariat of the Diocese of Gbarnga has embarked on an intense HIV/AIDs awareness and sensitization campaigns In Bong County.

The campaign on how to prevent the virus was recently launched to target five rural communities in Kokoyah Statutory District.

The health coordinator at the Catholic Diocese of Gbarnga Lincoln Morris disclosed that the program which is expected to run for 12 months primarily targets key community groups such as trained traditional birth attendance, trained traditional midwives, village health workers and local leaders. It is aimed at increasing their knowledge and understanding about the HIV pandemic which would further help prevent the spread of the virus amongst the poor rural population.

Mr. Morris says with the involvement of the local in the education of their own people on the danger associated in contracting the HIV/AIDS, much impact would be made in preventing the plague.

He indicated that it is very essential for people providing health services in rural settings such as traditional birth attendants to be provided adequate education on various preventive measures as they would educate their people in a language they understand.

He said the people benefiting from the HIV/AIDS prevention project are being taught the basic mode of transmission of the virus, the various preventive practices, but not promoting the use of condom as an alternative means of stopping people from getting in contact with AIDS.

The Catholic Health Coordinator lamented that most people in rural areas still lack basic knowledge and education on how to prevent themselves from the AIDS virus while some are heavily tied to traditional believes and practices which require enough time and resources in order to have an indelible impact in the quest of halting the offensive of the AIDs epidemic in 'impoverished societies like ours'.

The medical practitioner said as means of making the program more sustainable, following their intervention in the targeted communities, a group of peer educators selected from their respective communities would be provided training to continue the initiative in the absence of direct outside support.

He stressed they would also be provided visual aid and other requisite resource materials to enhance their work in their communities.

The one-year HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention project is being funded by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), under its social support program for Liberia.

A related development, the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL) HIV/AIDS Program recently opened its regional offices including the HIV/AIDs Voluntary Consoling and Testing (VCT) Center in Gbarnga.

Speaking at the formal opening of the center in Gbarnga, the regional supervisor of LCL HIV/AIDs program for Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties, Rev. Joseph S. Kwiwalazu, disclosed that the VCT center was chiefly established in Gbarnga to provide the opportunity for people to do their HIV/AIDS test in order to know their status which is another preventive measure being encouraged by the Church.

He said the center will also offer free counseling services, and special attention would be given to children whose parents are HIV/AIDs sufferers and can no longer cater to them because of their illness.

This will include the provision of food, clothing, educational support and other basic social support for their survival and up keep.

The LCL HIV/AIDS program also has counselors deployed at strategic health centers in Bong County, carrying out HIV/AIDs testing and counseling mainly for pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus before and after birth.

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