The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia Observes World Aids Day

Liberia over the weekend joined the rest of the world to celebrate this year's World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day is set aside to provide opportunities for stocktaking by countries and renewing commitment to intensify efforts in mitigating the impact of the killer disease.

The day is also used as an opportunity for greater awareness on a worldwide scale and fight prejudice with the aim of improving HIV&AIDS education among the population.

Serving as keynote speaker during the celebration, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional Referral Hospital (JFDH) in Tappita, Nimba County, Dr. Francis N. Kateh, suggested that the way to meet global target in the fight against HIV &AIDS requires vigorous awareness against the disease.

Dr. Kateh said recent HIV&AIDS data puts the Liberia's prevalence rate at 1.5% out of the a population of 3.5 million which believed that a proactive approach was required by all.

Dr. Kateh called on law enforcement agencies in the country to ensure that risky sexual behaviors by young people are addressed.

"If we look at the risk behavior profiles of our population between the ages of 14-49, a warning has to be made. For example, November 29 seems to be the unleashing of some of the risky behaviors of our precious jewels; drinking and having sex," he noted. He recommended that Liberia needs to adopt multilevel strategies to reach global target.

Dr Kateh wants consistent awareness, education, effective and efficient policies with the involvement of diverse stakeholders and partners in the campaign against HIV&AIDS in Liberia.

Dr. Kateh added that consistent awareness and education entail the involvement of grass-root partners to inform the public of risk behaviors that could lead to the virus infection.

"The days for denial should be in the past; it is time to look at the various health laws, review and codify them. It is time to look at patients' rights and confidentiality, if there are no laws, or policies", he stressed.

Dr. Kateh noted that it is important for appropriate laws and policies to be formulated so that people who knowingly infect others with the virus will be penalized.

According to him, this process will need a concerted effort by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the National AIDS Commission and the Legislature if Liberia must progress toward zero stigma and discrimination.

Dr. Kateh called on religious groups in Liberia to play a proactive role in educating citizens to seek immediate medical attention at accredited health centers.

Dr. Kateh wants President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and relevant policymakers including in the national response to AIDS to ensure that Liberia form part of countries that are benefiting from "United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)".

Earlier, the Chairman of the National AIDS Commission, Dr. Ivan Camanor, reaffirmed the Liberian government's commitment to the national AIDS response.

He claimed that the Liberian government has demonstrated strong commitment to reduce the spread of HIV in Liberia.

Dr. Camanor indicated that Liberia is on course in achieving global target of ensuring that stigma, discrimination, new HIV infection, AIDS related deaths are addressed by the country in line with the United Nations plan.

This year's World Day was celebrated on the global Theme: "Getting To Zero: Zero New HIV Infection; Zero Stigma and Discrimination; and Zero AIDS Related Deaths" with its national theme: "Eliminating HIV Transmission from Mother to Child in Liberia: Yes We Can".

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