The Executive Director of the National AIDS Commission, Dr. Ivan Camaner, says, in actual numbers, about 38, 000 Liberians are infected with the deadly HIV virus.
Speaking at the UNMIL press briefing Wednesday, Dr. Camaner said the HIV epidemic threatens Liberia and its poverty reduction efforts, and expressed fears that it may hinder national development, if authorities fail to contain it.
Dr. Camaner says 4.0 percent of pregnant women tested at health centers are infected with HIV, with about 1.5 percent HIV prevalence in the general population of reproductive age. He argued that Liberia has the opportunity and, at the same time, the challenge to prevent the spread of HIV in its population and save the county from devastation.
According to him, HIV prevalence in West Africa may be low compared to other regions of the continent, especially Eastern and Southern Africa, where he said the pandemic has devastated many communities and countries. He said in those countries, HIV wiped out populations of teachers, health workers, farmers and other professionals, thereby reversing major development gains.
For Liberia, he said, with the current peace and security being enjoyed here, increased population movement from neighboring countries will be allowed, while stressing that HIV moves with people.
“Therefore, HIV is likely to spread all over the country unless we do everything we can to stop it. This is our national challenge,” he said.
However, UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Mr. David Chipanta, says millions of people are living longer because access to treatment and TB-HIV services are scaled up.
Chipanta said fewer people are dying from AIDS, but added that the result could be better. He revealed that AIDS-related deaths have fallen largely due to an expansion of treatment, care and support services.
Mr. Chipanta then lauded the effort of young people, whom he said are leading the HIV prevention revolution. According to him, young people have adopted safer sexual practices, including choosing to delay the age of sexual debut.