President Ernest Bai Koroma has re-affirmed his commitment to ensure that HIV/AIDS is on his priority list.
He made this commitment last Thursday whilst addressing the National AIDS Council (NAC) members at State House when they convened to discuss the Country Progress Report on HIV/AIDS.
Koroma said that HIV/AIDS is “part of the Agenda for Prosperity document we are currently developing.”
He added that government will continue to increase its investment in HIV/AIDS both in terms of political and financial support, maintaining that every Sierra Leonean, whether in good health or ill health is at risk of contracting the virus.
“The infection rate among our adolescent girls is three times higher (1.4%) than boys (0.5%) while our youths aged 23-24 years is 1.4%”. These statistics President Koroma says, are disturbing for a country that is hoping on this particular group of future leaders.
“I therefore appeal to our development partners to help Sierra Leone mitigate and avert this tragedy from becoming worse”, he said.
He thanked the United Nations agencies, the US government, German government, and others, noting that “we do firmly recognize the importance of committing our own resources as a nation to the fight against the disease.”
Addressing Journalists last Friday at the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS) after the State House meeting, Dr Brima Kargbo said that the President and members of NAC were briefed on three important issues; the country progress report, global fund grant and the partnership forum.
He reiterated that in the past four to five years HIV/AIDS was prioritized in the Agenda for Change and with the new Agenda for Prosperity which is being prepared, HIV/AIDS is also being prioritized.
Dr Kargbo asserted that the government has shown its commitment by providing the 5% Counterpart funding which the Global Fund is requesting countries to provide before ever they disburse resources.
The Director stated that according to the progress report, our prevalence still stands at 1.5%, adding this has been so for the past four years because we normally conduct national stereo prevalence survey after every three to five years.
He said that because the survey is costly “what we do is that we monitor the trend using pregnant women as proxy. The prevalence rate among pregnant women is also reducing”, he stated, pointing out that it has moved from 4.4% to 3.2%.
“One of the key issues that we presented to the Council is the first National Strategic Plan which ended in 2010,” he said. Dr Kargbo disclosed that “if you look at what we achieved in 2010 compare it to the New Strategy Plan that we developed for 2011 to 2015 we have seen an increase in the number of testing sites of what was available in 2010.
“The number of people tested in 2010 was about 217,000, whilst in 2011 we tested about 347000. This shows that there is an increase in the number of people who are actually accepting the testing facilities”, he added further noting that testing is the gateway to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
The Director further stated that Sierra Leone is doing well in the area of prevention of Mother to Child Transmission because the number of infected children born to HIV affected mothers has reduced from 9% to 5%; and that is the acceptable level in which a country is identified for possible elimination of the Mother to Child Transmission.
This year again, he disclosed that Sierra Leone has been identified by the United Nations to serve in the Panel of the Programme Coordinating Board of the UN that controls HIV/AIDS, because of the achievement we have made as a country.
In her presentation on the Partnership Forum, Mrs. Dilys Thompson, Coordinator Children and HIV said that the Forum was formed to actualize President Koroma’s clarion call in the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan (NSP) 2011-2015 to engage partners on the implementation of the NSP and to constantly re-shape strategies that would help achieve the three zeros by 2015.
She added that the overall objective is to support NAS in accelerating the national response to HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone based on the 2011-2015 NSP.
Mr. Maxin Kanu, Admin and Finance Coordinator Global Fund said in the past we had the World Bank SHARP project on HIV/AIDS and activities were done randomly; It was not properly coordinated.
He added that with the coming in of the Global Fund in 2005, NAS developed the Comprehensive National Response to the disease.
The Admin and Finance Coordinator stated that we have four grants moving. The HIV SS Grant which is the Round 9, the TB Round 7, Malaria Round 7 and Malaria and TB Round 10.