Liberia’s HIV prevalence rises
Over 21, 000 positive
By Kruah Thompson
The number of persons living with the HIV virus and are currently on treatment in Liberia has grown significantly from 15,831 in December 2019 to over 21,000, according to health authorities in the country.
This figure does not include those who have not been tested, suggesting that the number could be by far higher than the official figures.
The Liberia National AIDS Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Health alarm here that the country’s HIV prevalence has increased significantly since 2013 and stressed a need to fight stigma and discrimination.
Giving the statistics Thursday, July 21, 2022, at the Ministry of Information’s press briefing in Monrovia, the Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Theodosia S. Kolee, said almost all the population group within the country has been seriously affected by HIV.
Commissioner Kolee detailed that of the total population group in Liberia, male sex workers (MSM) account for 37.9%, from 19.8%, while female sex workers account for 16.7%, from 9.8%.
She continues that uniform service personnel accounts for 17.6%, while transport workers, previously at 9.6% have jumped to 28.5%, respectively.
“Also, people who inject drugs into their veins account for 14.4% from 4.9%, while inmate is at 5.5%, mobile traders, 3.8% and miners to include children are 3.0%”, the AIDS Commission boss adds.
The disclosure here coincides with official launch of the second integrated biological and bio-behavioral surveillance survey (IBBSS) on the prevalence and distribution of HIV and Syphilis, among members of the key vulnerable populations in Liberia.
Madam Kolee notes that the statistics present a serious challenge to the country, stressing that if the country must meet the 2030 global target there’s a need for citizens to work along with government to discourage stigma and discrimination.
She says to accelerate the reduction of stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV, the Commission has joined the global partners for action (GPFA) to eliminate all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
“In keeping with goal two of the National Strategy Plan (NSP), we have developed and launched zero discrimination action plan with [the] following priorities for 2022.”
She says the Commission seeks to engage faith-based institutions, traditional leaders and other opinion leaders in addressing stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV and key population in general.
Madam Kolee also disclosed that the National AIDS Commission has developed and distributed a five-year National AIDS Strategy Plan to the government, which will serve as guiding tool for implementing national HIV responses.
According to her, the document will be used to fully align with UNAIDS Global fast track strategy set toward achieving the global target of 95-95-95 by 2030.
“When it comes to the 95-95-95 Target, Liberia is at 66% (22,637) with people who know their HIV status at 93% (21067) put on treatment and 76% (16,637) are viral load suppressed”, she explains.
However, she says despite the challenge posed on the country, Liberia continues to make steady progress in the fight to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
The National AIDS Commission has implemented several National AIDS and STIs control programs, including free HIV, viral load testing and treatments.
She says currently, the Commission has more than 600 facilities across the country that are offering HIV counseling and testing services (HCT), 472 facilities offering PMTCT services, 250 facilities offering anti-retrovirus therapy (ARP) and 17 facilities with virus load machines for testing and referral (sample transport).
Additionally, Liberia has become a success story in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission program, Madam Kolee adds. Editing by Jonathan Browne