21 February 2013

Liberia: Use Your Power to Prevent HIV in Liberia - Police Officers Urged

The UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dr. Betru Tekle Woldesemayat, on Wednesday urged several officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to use their powers to prevent HIV from spreading. He make the remarks in Kakata Margibi County at the opening of a two-day training organized by uniformed services in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1983 which mandates uniformed personnel and peace keepers to reach out to the vulnerable population and host community during their service.

The UNAIDS Country Coordinator said: "You as uniformed services you have a lot of discretionary powers. Use those powers for HIV preventive purposes." He advised the police personnel to prioritize the prevention of HIV which, he said, would prevent themselves, their families, their nation, and the world at large.

Dr. Woldesemayat: "Firstly, you must protect yourselves from HIV as individuals and your families. This means that you should be informed of how HIV is transmitted and how you can protect yourselves. But for you to protect yourselves and your family, you must have an enlightened population. So you need to inform your ranks and the population that work with you about HIV and be informed about where you can get the services on HIV. Beside delivering information on HIV, you can influence attitudes that shape how people and communities perceive the HIV infection which in turn would influence how people behavior, vulnerability and risk to HIV.

"Keep the HIV agenda high on the agenda. It is important that uniformed services work to prevent an AIDS fatigue. This means that you make HIV your business as leaders of uniformed services. You look internally to see how your current policies address the specific needs of uniformed services personnel in terms of HIV prevention, treatment and care. You make sure that your units are medically fit and fit for purpose.

"Develop core competencies on HIV in particular around UNSC 1983. Have dedicated staff who can ensure that HIV continues to be integrated in the work that you do. How for example does your work at the border crossing expose you and the communities around HIV? How does your work around arresting and imprisoning people for simple issues impact HIV transmission? How does your work around preventing sexual violence impact HIV? I believe these and many more issues will be addressed during this meeting."

For his part, National AIDS Commission Chairman Dr. Ivan F. Camanor emphasized the need for collective efforts of all sectors of the country to contribute to the national AIDS response. He said prevention of HIV and AIDS must not be left with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare alone because, "HIV goes beyond the health sector. It affects all sectors of our country including the police and the agriculture sector of our nation. This is why at the level of the National AIDS Commission, we've developed and launched the National AIDS Strategic Framework 2010-214 to serve as a platform through which we all can engage AIDS to eliminate its spread."

Also, making the official Launch of the training, the Liberia National Police HIV Focus Person, Officer Dixion N. Jlateh encourages his colleagues to help contribute to the national AIDS response noting that police are not exempted from the HIV devastation.

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