The National AIDS Commission of Liberia last Thursday, launched the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework 2010-2014 at the Monrovia City Hall.
The National Strategic Framework was launched on behalf of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is also Chairman of the National AIDS Commission, by Dr. Edward McClain, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.
The National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework 2010-2014 will provide a framework for efforts, aimed at preventing the spread of HIV and mitigating its impact on society.
The two main goals of the five-year National Strategic Framework include: containing HIV prevalence among the general population to below 1.5 percent by 2014 and mitigating the impact of the epidemic on the health and wellbeing of persons infected and affected by HIV.
“Those who are HIV positive and have come forward to say we are part of the solution are our heroes,” said Dr. McClain. “We must create an environment where we can in earnest contain the spread of HIV at 1.5% and begin reversing it by 2015.”
The Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS) of 2007 shows an HIV rate of 1.5 percent among the general population aged between 15-49 indicates low-level generalized epidemic. However, the HIV rate among women is higher (1.8 percent) than among men (1.2 percent), revealing women’s higher vulnerability to HIV infection.
Experts have warned that Liberia needs to increase the intensity and coverage of HIV prevention and care efforts to avert an epidemic of Eastern and Southern African proportions. Speaking on behalf of the UN Family, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Rule of Law, Ms. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu said “the prevalence of HIV in Liberia may be low.
However, HIV steadily marches on, and now, rather than later, is the best time for us to rally behind Liberia in preventing the HIV from spreading.
“We can’t allow Liberia to suffer such a fate, in addition to the challenges of extreme levels of poverty and unacceptably high levels of sexual and gender based violence.”
“I restate the UN system’s commitment to supporting the National AIDS Commission’s goal of ‘Zero Discrimination, Zero new HIV infections and Zero AIDS related deaths’ in Liberia,” she added.
In special remarks at the launch, Dr. Ben Chirwa, Director General of the National AIDS Council of Zambia, related that “Liberia has 3000 people on HIV treatment. Zambia has 100 times (300,000 people) the number that Liberia has on treatment.” Dr. Chirwa, sponsored by UNAIDS to share experiences with the National AIDS Commission of Liberia, said “this is because Zambia was complacent. We thought AIDS was from outside.”
Giving the vote of thanks, Dr. Ivan Camanor, National AIDS Commission Executive Director thanked the National Steering Committee of the National AIDS Strategic Framework that has worked on the document for over 3 years for having brought it to a successful conclusion and setting the platform for implementation.
Key activities under the National Strategic Framework will involve improving the coverage and quality of existing prevention, care and treatment services, as well as strengthening the involvement of non-health government sectors, civil society and the private sector in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and respond to its effects.
The Government and its partners have taken critical steps towards a national and cross-sectoral response to HIV and AIDS in Liberia.
A Secretariat for the National AIDS Commission has been established, the National Strategic Framework has been finalized, while a number of other initiatives are underway, including prevention of mother to child transmission efforts, strengthening of blood safety, provision of post-exposure prophylaxis and condoms, and awareness rising.
Other government personalities who participated in the launch were Ministers of Health & Social Welfare, Labor, Gender & Development, Youth &Sports and Education.