Liberia: NACL, MOH, and AFL Commit to Unite in Combatting HIV and Aids

Paynesville — The National AIDS Commission of Liberia (NAC), Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) have vowed to form a united front to combat HIV and AIDS across Liberia. The institutions made the commitment at the event marking the observation of World AIDS Day in Liberia. The event, held at the Samuel K. Doe Sport Complex Basketball Gym in Paynesville on Friday, resonated with the global theme "Let Communities Lead" and the national theme "Communities Lead with Equality and Diversity to End AIDS."

World AIDS Day is a global initiative aimed at uniting people worldwide in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It serves as a platform to express solidarity with individuals living with HIV, remember those lost to AIDS-related complications, and raise awareness about prevention and treatment.

Joseph B.N. Kowo, Assistant Chief of Staff for Health Service of the AFL and the national orator for the World AIDS Day commemoration, emphasized the crucial role of communities, urging diverse groups--such as the Liberia Network of People Living with HIV (LibNeP+), Liberia's Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Identity, Diversity, and Equality (LIPRIDE), government agencies, civil society organizations, religious institutions, traditional leaders, and key community figures--to take the lead in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Liberia.

Kowo stressed the necessity of achieving the UNAIDS global target of 95-95-95 by 2030, citing successful precedents in Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. These countries, he noted, attributed their success partly to prioritizing human rights, recognizing that safeguarding these rights reduces infections and supports better coping mechanisms for those living with HIV.

The UNAIDS global target of 95-95-95, calls for 95% of the people who are living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95% of the people who know that they are living with HIV are being on lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment, and 95% of people who are on treatment are being virally suppressed.

Highlighting findings from the 2018 Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS), Kowo revealed high HIV prevalence rates among key populations such as men who have sex with men (37.9%), female sex workers (16.7%), and people who inject drugs (9.6%). He emphasized the importance of inclusive efforts to address these challenges and prevent further spread.

Despite progress in treatment accessibility and education, Kowo acknowledged persistent challenges faced by marginalized communities, women, and young people disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS.

"Let us continue persist on the pressing need to combat HIV- related stigma and discrimination, as they continue to hinder progress and prevent individuals from seeking the care and support they deserve," he said, "Together, we can make a difference as a nation. In the spirit of community participation, let us join hands, raise our voices, and continue the fight against HIV and AIDS until we achieve our share goal of an AIDS - free nation," he said.

Wokie Cole Doe, President of LibNeP+, echoed the urgency of Liberia meeting its 2030 targets and acknowledged the critical role played by President George M. Weah and the National AIDS Commission Board of Directors. She emphasized the ongoing threat posed by HIV to Liberia's health, economy, and political sectors, urging continued collective efforts to combat stigma, discrimination, and the societal issues hindering progress.

As Liberia reflects on its achievements and challenges, Doe emphasized the need to address underlying factors such as poverty, gender inequality, education, human rights, and sustainable financing to create an environment conducive to preventing and managing HIV and AIDS.

"The war against societal issues," she said, "undermines the HIV response. It is not over. Therefore, HIV is still here and poses a threat to the country's health, economy, and political sectors. Liberia has a general HIV epidemic, with reproductive HIV populations showing an HIV prevalence of 2.1%."

As Liberia joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Aids Day, the call to action remains clear: unite, raise voices, and persist in the fight against HIV and AIDS until the shared goal of an AIDS-free nation becomes a reality.

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