Stakeholders drawn from various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media Tuesday concluded a two-day sensitisation workshop on combating stigma and discrimination in HIV/AIDS at the head office of The Association of Non-governmental Organisations (TANGO) in Fajara.
Supported by the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS), the TANGO sensitisation was necessitated by the fact that as advocates and service providers for the welfare and rights of persons infected withHIV/AIDS, it is essential that they are themselves familiar with issues of stigma and discrimination.
Officially declaring the workshop open, the UNAIDS Gambia national coordinator, Nuha Ceesay, said due to the persistence and active involvement of the civil society, they were able to break new ground on HIV/AIDS.
"In The Gambia, most of you are aware that the first HIV treatment centre was actually run by a civil society organisation cum Medical Research Council (MRC). It was also a civil organisation - Hands on Care that pioneered the establishment of a treatment site for mother-to-child transmission and home-based care for chronically ill people with more focus on people living with HIV in Kombo Manduar area of West Coast Region," Ceesay stated.
Noting that the UNAIDS is the only UN agency that has recognised the important role of civil society, Ceesay asserted that they made sure that civil society has a sit on the programme coordinating board. "At the level of global fund, the civil society has a very wide representation and even at the country level. All these things try to bring into perspective the important role that civil society would play in the global, regional, and national response to HIV," he stated.
Ceesay disclosed that reports have indicated that there is more than 50 percent drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries since 2001;. He added that the high prevalentrate countries like Malawi have seen a 73 percent reduction in HIV infections whilst Botswanasaw a71 percent drop.
"South Africa, the country with the largest HIV epidemic has achieved 41 percent reduction since 2001 and in the last two years; it has reduced the number of new HIV infections to 12 percent, that is from 430, 000 to 380, 000. South Africa has also scaled up HIV treatment by 75 percent in the last two years," Ceesay revealed.
Speaking earlier, a programme officer at TANGO, Madi Jobarteh, thanked the parties for organising the sensitisation workshop for their partners. He called on the participants to share the knowledge gained, while noting that HIV is an issue of concern considering the rate of stigma and discrimination that people infected with the disease have to put up with.
The executive director of the National Aids Secretariat (NAS), Nuha Ceesay, for his part, called for close collaboration and partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He urged participants to take part actively, and tasked them to disseminate the knowledge gained.