The NEWS (Monrovia)

8 May 2014

Liberia: Ellen Promises to Give HIV/Aids Priority

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she will continue to ensure that HIV/AIDS, Gender Equality, Sexual & Gender Based Violence are given priority at the global level.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian President, chairing the meeting of the Board of Directors of the National AIDs Commission (NAC), said that the results of her advocacy will depend greatly on how the national anti-AIDs authorities will engage the global community in achieving the agenda. The Board meeting was held in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, May 6.

She encouraged members of the National AIDs Commission to remain positively engaged with the international community in forming part of the new action plan that is expected to commence in 2015 and run up to 2020.

President Sirleaf, who chairs the Commission, wants data collected from the outgoing strategic framework to form part of the development of the new HIV Strategic Plan based on the investment approach of the new funding model of the Global Fund.

"In order to have an impactful participation in the new global plan," President Sirleaf said, "it behooves the national government to mobilize domestic funding to respond to HIV which will enable the Government to consolidate past achievements and at the same time strengthen its collective determination in recording zero new HIV infections, zero new deaths and zero discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Speaking on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS, Mr. Joejoe Baysah expressed appreciation to President Sirleaf and her government for the interest they're showing in fighting the epidemic.

He said government's engagement with stakeholders in the fight, including those living with the virus, have drastically reduced the level of stigmatization and discrimination that they've suffered in past years.

For his part, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, who's co-chair of the Board of the National AIDs Commission, told the Commission to see access to treatment as an important and uncompromising intervention by government.

His comments were in response to the data presented by the Commission that treatment could not reach to some HIV patients due to their distance away from treatment centers.

Minister Gwenigale wants the Commission to use mobile treatment staffers to reach out to patients since the survey released by the Commission shows that distances to treatment centers were holding back those infected from getting treatment.

A 2013 demographic survey also released during the Board Meeting by the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) puts females ahead of males on knowledge on the virus. They are also the most infected as compared to their male counterparts.

The data also shows that those living in urban areas are most likely to become infected as compared to those living in rural areas with the prevalence rate at 1.9 percent indicating a 0.4 percent increase since the 2007 survey.

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