16 May 2017

Liberia: New UNAIDS Chief Presents Letters to Foreign Minister

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Marjon Kamara, has received the Letters of Accreditation from the new UNAIDS Country Director to Liberia, Ms. Miriam Chipimo.

During the presentation ceremony in the Ministry's conference room recently, Minister Kamara welcomed Ms. Chipimo to Liberia and expressed her delight that the new UNAIDS Country Director, also a female, is taking forward the work of this UN agency in Liberia.

"In our long-standing relations with UNAIDS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes you to Liberia and looks forward to working with you; we wish you a very good and pleasant stay here during your tenure" a release quoted her as saying.

For her part, Ms. Chipimo said she looks forward to contributing to the response of the HIV prevalence in Liberia and picking up from where her predecessor, Dr. Betru Woldesemayat, left off.

The UNAIDS working with stakeholders including the National AIDS Commission, Ministry of Health and other partners have developed a "Catch-up Plan" for Liberia which sets targets at 2020.

She indicated that initially they have identified three counties (Montserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa) considered to have the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the country to begin the "Catch-up Plan".

"We haven't reached most of the people around the country for testing; we have only reached 26 percent of those who are positive with the virus," she stated, adding that of the 40,000 estimated with the virus throughout the country, 6,000 of those need treatment.

The new UNAIDS Country Director confirmed that 80 percent of the estimated 40,000 persons with the virus are in these three counties; as such, they have targeted these counties to shortly begin the program since Liberia is one of four countries way behind in meeting the targets.

Already, three other countries are being prioritized for the "Catch-up Program" including Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Senegal to be highlighted during the upcoming ECOWAS Summit in June 2017.

Ms. Chipimo frowned on not having a clear strategy to test the male population; identifying the hotspots as well as which groups are the real targets - homosexuals, transgenders, migrants, among others.

The new UNAIDS Country Director emphasized that women are the most vulnerable, while children, who are infected, choose not to disclose their status because of the stigma. "We need an agenda to deal with stigma," she warned, adding, "I think we can do it; but Liberia with its small population makes the country vulnerable."

Ms. Miriam Chipimo, before being posted to Liberia, served as senior adviser, policy and strategy of the UNAIDS Caribbean sub-regional team in Kingston, Jamaica.

Before then, from September 2013 to October 2015, she served as senior strategic intervention adviser of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team at the Port of Spain, Trinidad; and earlier, senior policy and programme adviser at the UNAIDS Country Office in Pretoria, South Africa.

She holds several degrees including a Masters of Public Health (MPH), from the University of Nairobi, Kenya; a Medical Degree (MD) from the Medical Institute, Plovdiv, Bulgaria; and before then completed pre-medical school at the University of Zambia. She also proficient in eight languages.

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