The National AIDS Secretariat on Tuesday May 24, 2016, at the Shangri La Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown, organized a one day National Consultative meeting to develop Annual Multi-Sectoral fast track work plan for 2016 on ending AIDS by 2030, targeting the high burden districts and populations most affected.
The National Consultative meeting seeks to develop a National Positive Paper on how to end AIDS in Sierra Leone for the National Delegation attending the June UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on ending AIDS in New York, and to facilitate country input into the Draft UN General Assembly High Level Meeting Political Declaration.
Delivering the keynote address, the Acting Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madam Madina Rahman expressed thanks and appreciation to the National AIDS Secretariat and its partners for coming together to consult and exchange ideas on how to end AIDS in the country.
Madam Rahman described HIV and AIDS as one of the development threats facing our nation today since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Sierra Leone in 1987.
She noted that more than 54,000 Sierra Leoneans are now living with the disease and the country continue to loose close to 2,700 Sierra Leoneans due to the disease annually.
Madam Rahman disclosed that institutional frameworks and modalities have been put in place for an effective multi-sectloral response, notes that all sectors are involved in the fight including civil society, faith-based organizations, community groups and the private sectors.
Government, she said, has made tremendous progress and plans to do more to fast-track the interventions and make HIV a non-public health problem in Sierra Leone by 2020.
“Over the years, our country has seen real progress on HIV prevention and access to anti-retroviral treatment based on what works through the support of the Global Fund, the UN Family and our Bi-lateral partners”, opined Madam Rahman.
She warned that NAS should focus on the sustainability of the partnership that would advance the human rights of all people as a key element to ending AIDS.
Giving the objectives of the meeting, the Director General of the National AIDS Secretariat, Dr. Momodu Sesay said that the meeting also serves as a forum to building national consensus on issues leading up to the high level meeting.
He disclosed that their aim was to identify concrete and target ways to fast track and scale up HIV interventions in order to make the disease a non-public health problem in Sierra Leone by 2030.
Dr. Sesay pointed out that there are limitations in terms of resources available as people have to change their ways of doing things and focus on districts and people that make the most difference, maintaining that Sierra Leone is ready to contribute to ending AIDS in 2030.
In his goodwill message on behalf of the UN Family, the UNICEF Representative, Geofferey Wiffin, congratulated the government of Sierra Leone for initiating the dialogue on ending AIDS in Sierra Leone, ahead of the United Nations General Assembly high level meeting on ending AIDS schedule to be held in New York from June 6-8.
Mr. Wiffin notes that the high level meeting represents an important opportunity for Sierra Leone to demonstrate its commitment to fast-track the HIV response over the next five years.
He mentioned that Sierra Leone as a country has recorded several success stories in overcoming unprecedented life threatening humanitarian and health crisis, adding that the resilience and coping strategies are adoring.
The Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism, Country Coordinator, Lynton Michael Tucker told his audience that they are working in close collaboration with UNAIDS and other partners to enhance National AIDS Secretariat and its implementing partners in ending AIDS.
Mr. Tucker cautioned that even though the HIV prevalence in Sierra Leone is 1.5 percent, all Sierra Leoneans are at high risk, noting that there are vulnerable population like men who have sex with men, sex workers, adolescents, women and children.
He said the recent visit of the Global Fund Executive Director, Dr. Mark Dybul to Sierra Leone increased the country’s portfolio to USD 106 Million to fight HIV, TB, and Malaria and improve on the Health Systems during 2016 to 2018 implementation period.
The Network of people living with HIV AIDS (NETHIPS) Representative, Idrissa Songo called on the government and partners to empower people living with this disease by investing on their livelihood with a view to ending the disease.
He maintained that the National Strategic Plan have explained the way forward in mitigating HIV which involved treating patients as a means of prevention.