The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia: UN Launches HIV/Aids Prevention Strategy

The United Nations HIV positive staff group under the banner, "UN-PLUS", has launched its chapter in Liberia known as "Friends of UN-PLUS.

The program is designed to reduce the impact of the UN workplace by supporting universal access to a comprehensive range of information and services for UN personnel and their families.

Speaking at the official launching ceremony in Monrovia Wednesday, the Chairperson for the United Nations Team Group in Liberia, Madam Esperance Fundira said the launch of the program demonstrates UN's commitment to respond to HIV prevention.

Madam Fundira said the program would set the platform for awareness to protect people living with HIV in Liberia as well as UN staff.

Madam Fundira urged UN agencies operating in Liberia to ensure that the program addresses the issues of stigma and discrimination against people infected with HIV at their work places.

According to her, this would demonstrate their willingness of helping Liberia in achieving the United Nations Zero HIV strategy target by 2015.

The UN Team Group Chair indicated that although the program aims to provide a stigma-free working environment for all UN staff living with HIV and their families, people living with HIV in Liberia would be covered in terms of benefits.

She said the Friends of UN-PLUS, a noble initiative by UN-PLUS, an advocacy and support group comprising UN staff members who are living with HIV intends to work directly with the positive community in Liberia.

The launch comes in the wake of World AIDS Day (WAD) campaign anniversary slated for December 1, 2012 coupled with the launch of report on the global HIV&AIDS Epidemic released Day two days ago in New York and Geneva.

Madam Fundira said the launch provides a serious need to strengthen the anti-stigma campaign in order to create a free working environment for UN staff and Liberians infected with the virus.

In remarks, the Country Coordinator of UNAIDS-Liberia, Dr. Betru Woldesemayat described the launch of the Friends of the UN -PLUS as a significant milestone in the fight against HIV&AIDS especially in Liberia.

He indicated that the launch of the UN-PLUS in Liberia was based on the willingness of three of the staff members living with HIV to openly disclose their status.

Dr. Woldesemayat said stigma and discrimination remain a major challenge to the fight against the HIV virus.

He called for a change of mind in the public toward people infected with HIV.

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