The Informer (Monrovia)

Liberia Kick-Off World Aids Day Campaign - As Over 30,000 Liberians Live With HIV

The National AIDS commission (NAC) in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) has kick-off activities marking the commemoration of World AIDS Day (WAD) in Liberia.

Since 1988, World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December every year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. Government and health officials observe the day, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history, according to research. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic has claimed millions of lives, with women and children worst affected.

Currently 34.2 million people are living with HIV and AIDS globally, with a staggering 23.5 million from sub-Sahara Africa. There are 2.5 million new infections, with 2.2 million new infections in adults and 330,000 new infections in children, while there are 1.7 million AIDS related deaths worldwide

NAC and NACP in partnership with the Liberia Media for Democratic Initiative (LMDI) on Tuesday November 27 held a community media dialogue aimed at informing the public on the "Prevention of Mother to child HIV&AIDS Transmission (PMTCT) and keeping mothers alive: Yes We Must!"

NAC officials recently reported that there are about 1,325 new HIV infections (the virus the causes AIDS) in the country, noting that there are already at least 33,671 people living with AIDS.

The Commission indicated that 1,684 pregnant women are living with HIV-- meaning the virus could be referred 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 dialogue brought together community dwellers at the Rally Time Market, a popular market hub in Monrovia. It was witnessed with government officials and religious leaders in the country with the exchanged of thoughts from both the public and panelist.

Those on the panel were; Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of NAC Mr. Sampon B. Sieh- Program manager of NACP; Madam Chinnie Sieh, PMTCT Coordinator at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH&SW); Mr. Jimmy Fallah-HIV&AIDS focal Person Ministry of Labor; and Mr. Sheich Idrissa swaray-Executive Director Union of Muslim Association of Bomi, Gbarpolu and Cape Mount.

They expressed hope that the 2012 World AIDS Day celebrations will revolutionize public perception about HIV &AIDS issues in the country. They expressed beliefs that with public willingness to get tested, plus the denouncement of stigma and discrimination at community levels and work places, much can be achievable as the issue of HIV&AIDS is every one business.

Explaining the modes of HIV&AIDS transmission with direct focus on PMTCT, Madam Chinnie Sieh, PMTCT Coordinator at MOH&SW said HIV can be transmitted from mother to Child in three ways.

The first way, she said, is through pregnancy: "when the Child is still in the womb of a woman. The mother could pass on the virus, if she refuses to undergo proper treatment".

Madam Sieh added that delivery period is another critical point of HIV&AIDS transmission which is the second modes of HIV transmission from mother to child.

According to her, during delivery process, mothers encounter several complications including blood transfusion and exchange of waters from their bodies to babies.

Breast feeling, which is a common practice to the Liberian population among females, Madam Sieh said, is the last mode of HIV transmission, but noted that positive HIV women and man could live with HIV and give birth to children who are HIV free if they take the treatment.

Considering that all women have to undergo these processes to keep a baby alive, the PMTCT Coordinator called on women in Liberia to keep in minds the HIV&AIDS transmission modes during pregnancy.

According her, the Ministry will work with women to ensure that by 2015, all babies are born free of HIV&AIDS. "We need to work together so that by 2015, no baby is born with HIV&AIDS. We can make it together regardless of, if you are not HIV&AIDS positive of not," Madam Sieh maintained.

For his part, Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of the NAC said the response to the HIV epidemic is a major concern of the Liberian Government.

He added that HIV&AIDS is a major challenge to this country and the Liberian Government, through partners' efforts and collaboration with the NAC, much is now being done to meet global target.

He named Global Fund, the UNAIDS and others as international partners helping government to achieve the three zeros strategy.

He further said because the Liberian Government is not taking the response to HIV, Dr. Camanor said the government has put in place several programs and have constructed many other health centers around the country.

He added that almost all ministries in Liberia have an HIV & AIDS focal person to address the spread of the epidemic in country.

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