The impacts of the AIDS epidemic in Liberia are becoming ever glaring, accompanied by health, social and economic threats to the growth and development of the country, with an estimated 40,000 persons currently infected across the nation.
A data from the National AIDS Commission shows that out of this number, 13, 110 (30%) of persons living with HIV are on treatment, 1,800 pregnant women need treatment yearly and 1,553 (86%) receive treatment.
The data also shows that more new HIV infections occur every year, while annual deaths stand at 2,500.
Liberia’s First Lady Clar M. Weah alarms the virus poses serious threat to the population, especially young people, who because of their reproductive growth, are considered most at risk.
However, speaking through a proxy from her Office, she assures that as First Lady of Liberia, it is her duty to advocate in helping to make the country safe from HIV.
“My goal is to advocate for an urgent attention and immediate collective action to address the HIV and AIDS pandemics we are faced with today,” she assured.
Liberia commemorated World AIDS Day over the weekend with renewed calls for collaborative efforts in mitigating the impacts of HIV and AIDS on the country. December 1st each year is observed globally as World AIDS Day.
The First Lady said while ensuring collaborative effort, it is also important that Liberians demonstrate solidarity and love to persons infected with the virus.
“On this day, fellow Liberians, we must appreciate our health workers, local and international partners working to end this scourge. My message to you is ‘Get tested and know your Status,” which is also the theme for this year’s world AIDS Day celebration. Doing your test now and as often as possible is the first step towards the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS”, she urges.
“Don’t be afraid of what the result may be. Be courageous and get tested. If you are tested positive of HIV, it is not the end of your life. You can access treatment to help you live a long and healthy life. If you are tested negative, you can also move on with your life but more carefully and cautiously”.
First Lady Weah warns Liberians to stop stigma and discrimination against persons living with the virus because it does not discriminate, saying “AIDS is everyone’s business. It is your responsibility. Do not rely on the government only to eradicate the pandemic. We as a society must take charge”.
The Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Theodosia S. Kolee, reminds Liberians that the rate limiting step in achieving UN 90-90-90 target is testing and diagnosing individuals living with HIV in the country.
Madam Kolee stresses that unless people know their status by getting tested, there is absolutely no chance of achieving these targets, if Liberians do not take the bold step to test and know their HIV status.
“Testing is a win-win scenario for all of us. If you test negative (98% of Liberians are negative), you can live positively and prolong your life. If on the other hand, you test positive (like 2% of Liberian), you can go on medication and live a healthy and normal life, having children that are free from the virus and reducing the chances of infecting your sexual contacts,” the National AIDS Commission said.
Stephen McGill, an HIV champion who has been living with HIV for years said although a cure for HIV is not yet available, current treatment options significantly extend life expectancy.
Mr. McGill is Executive Director of Atop AIDS in Liberia or SAIL. “In fact, most HIV positive individuals who are adherent to treatment live as long as their HIV negative counterparts. I urge all of you to get tested today, know your status, and take action to protect your future and that of your loved ones”, he encourages fellow Liberians.
World AIDS Day is dedicated to raising awareness about the HIV and AIDS pandemic; providing a platform to reflect on the achievements made in the national HIV response and to embrace with optimistic solidarity, people living with HIV.
The campaign aims at ensuring quality treatment and support for persons living with HIV and advocating for the reduction of stigma and discrimination in society against families infected and affected by the virus.