Liberia: Sinoe, Rivercess, Grand Gedeh Counties Brainstorm On Ending AIDS, TB in Liberia

Southeastern Liberia — About 73 representatives of local county authorities, Ministry of Health, County Health Officers; the private sector; faith-based organizations; traditional leaders; civil society groups; human rights groups; community-based organizations, key populations to TB/HIV, women-based groups, persons living with HIV; people who are most vulnerable to and affected by the diseases drawn from three of Liberia's 15 political subdivisions, Sinoe, Rivercess, Grand Gedeh have completed a two-day regional country dialogue to provide input to the development of a new joint national TB/HIV funding request for the country.

The Country dialogue which is led by the Liberia Coordinating Mechanism (LCM) of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in partnership with the Ministry of Health Programs (National AIDS/STIs Control Program - NACP and National Leprosy and TB Control Program - NLTCP) and the National AIDS Commission was held from 13-14 January 2020 in the Port City of Greenville, Sinoe County. Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and Rivercess were group as region 4 counties to prioritize areas of intervention for the new Global Fund grant.

According to the dialogue organizers, it is intended to ensure that the Global Fund New Funding Model (NFM III) meets the need of the affected communities through engagement, as well as it seeks to provide groups that are excluded from the LCM or that have weak representation and/or opportunity to participate meaningfully and provide input to the Global Fund New Funding Request (NFM-III). It also provides the opportunity to discuss and address barriers to accessing health services.

The Global Fund has allocated to Liberia US$ 37.8 million grant to curb TB/HIV in the country for the period of three years in Liberia (from 2021-2023). The government is obligated to provide a 15% counterpart funding for the joint grant.

An inclusive country dialogue is prerequisite for eligible countries including Liberia to develop a funding request for approval by the Global Fund. The LCM which is a national body responsible to write and submit proposal and to provide grant oversight, has divided the country into five regions and has been conducting the dialogue to provide citizens the opportunity to provide input to the new proposal.

During the interactive dialogue held in Greenville City, Sinoe County, participants of the three counties identified the followings as priority areas for the new funding request: HIV/TB Prevention; Differentiated HIV testing services, and TB/HIV Collaboration; HIV Treatment, Care and support services, and TB Program Management; Prevention of HIV from Mother to Child Transmission, and Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR-TB); HIV/TB Collaboration, and Removing human rights and gender-related barriers to TB services; HIV Program Management, and Removing human rights and gender-related barriers to HIV service.

The Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and Rivercess counties' participants' priority areas are aligned to the national strategic plans for Liberia and the modular framework of the Global Fund.

In a PowerPoint presentation on the background of HIV, achievements versus challenges, Dr. Julia T. Garbo, Program Manager of NACP said Liberia HIV prevalence is at 2.1% in the general population and the primary modes of transmission in Liberia are: sexual contact and prenatal transmission. She called on all to get tested in order to know their HIV status, stop stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV in the counties.

Presenting on the new policy direction for HIV, Mrs. Theodosia Kolee, Chairperson of the NAC said the new National Strategic Plan (NSP 2020-2025) for HIV envisioned, an "HIV and AIDS fee Liberia"; with a mission focusing on attaining public health control of the AIDS epidemic with fewer than 10 new HIV infections per year by 2030.

She outlined the thematic goals of the new NSP as follow: Goal 1. Prevent new HIV infection to less than 500 per year - Target 1. Scale up HIV treatment to reach 95% triple targets for persons living with HIV; and Target 2. Scale up HIV interventions to reach 60% of estimated key populations.

Goal 2. Test and Treat; and Goal 3. Reduce stigma and discrimination for PLHIV and vulnerable populations to less than 20%.

Also making presentation on background, achievements versus challenges of TB in Liberia, Madam Markonee T. Knightley, Deputy Program Manager for Programs at NLTCP said Liberia has been classified as one of 30 high TB burden countries in the World by the World Health Organization (WHO). As in many other high TB burden settings, economic, health and socio-demographic factors are the key issues underlying TB disease in Liberia, she continues that in 2018, about 15,000 people fell ill with TB in Liberia. At current 48% of people that fell ill with TB were missed while only 52% were notified. She also called on participants to know the facts about TB in order to stop stigma and discrimination against TB person.

Presenting on the new policy direction for TB, Dr. Roxanne Booker, Program Manager of the TB Program in Liberia said the vision of the new NLTCP's TB NSP 2020-2025 is to see Liberia free of TB and Leprosy; while its mission is to provide universal high-quality tuberculosis and Leprosy prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services for all persons affected by TB and Leprosy in Liberia.

According to her, the new NSP has three goals which include: to provide high-quality TB diagnosis and treatment to all patients without them having to incur catastrophic costs; to institute bold policies and supportive systems for TB care and prevention; and to intensified research and innovations.

Mrs. Paulina Doe Hilton, Head of Secretariat of the LCM had earlier provided an overview of the two days dialogue and the new funding module of the Global Fund.

In closing remarks, Mr. Patrick S. Wilson, Sr. Administrative Assistant/Chief of Office Staff to the office of Sinoe County's Superintendent Lee Nagbe Chea, Sr. thanked participants from the three counties for their participation noting his major point as Reducing Human Rights and Gender related barriers. He proposed training for health workers in the various counties. According to him, patient's health records need to be kept secret. He further called on the participants to serve as ambassadors for HIV/TB in their various counties. He urged them to return home and feedback their various organizations with the knowledge acquired.

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