26 November 2012

Liberia: Aids Commission Reports Over 1,300 HIV Infections - As PUL Urges Collaboration With Media

With only few days to the observance of World AIDS Day (December 1), officials of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) have reported about 1,325 new HIV infections (the virus that causes AIDS) in the country, noting that there are already at least 33,671 people living with AIDS.

The Commission indicates that 1,684 pregnant women are living with HIV--meaning the virus could be transferred to their new born babies, while 60% of the 33,671 people living with AIDS are females.

The 2007 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey put the prevalence rate of the virus at 1.5%, and NAC officials said the prevalence rate of the virus was very high in urban areas (2.5%) as compared to 0.8% in rural localities.

From just one infection in Lofa County in the mid 1980s, HIV and AIDS has had a greater toil in Liberia, claiming hundreds of lives, and the Government has established in the NAC to respond to the epidemic.

The Commission is working hard "to contain a low prevalence rate of 1.5% in the general population by 2014," Madam Juanita Ramirez, Commissioner for Partnership said in a presentation last Friday during a one-day workshop for media editors organized by the Anti-Aids Media Network (AAMIN) with the support of the NAC and partners.

The workshop was intended to raise issue of national response to HIV and AIDS with editors who have the final say of what appears on the front pages of newspapers and broadcast news headlines. It was intended to encourage them to give priority to news articles on HIV and AIDS, AAMIN Coordinator, Necus M. Andrews (a reporter at the Newspaper) said.

It is believed that a well informed and well capacitated media sector has a potential force to change behavior and re-enforce a culture that prevents HIV through education, Partnership, Behavior Change, Raising Awareness and Promoting Respect for Human Right, Commissioner Ramirez pointed out.

The Commissioner noted that though women and girls are mostly at risk of contracting the virus, every other person in society can be affected by it and called on the media and civil society to get involved in creating awareness and prevention of HIV in Liberia.

Among others, she indentified adolescent girls and young women, women and girls involved in transactional sex, Sex workers and clients, Intravenous drug users, Men who have sex with men, Orphans and vulnerable children, prison populations, and mobile populations (border-tons, cross-border migrants) as people mostly affected by the virus.

Under the National HIV Strategic Framework 2010 - 2014, Madam Ramirez said the NAC strives to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on the health and wellbeing of persons infected and affected by HIV&AIDS.

Besides, it is working to ensure effective coordination and management of a decentralized, multispectral national response to the HIV&AIDS epidemic; ensure reduction of new HIV infections, especially among vulnerable groups; guarantee the provision of appropriate and effective treatment, care and support for PLHIV, and other affected persons; and intensify campaign and awareness on prevention.

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