The Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Desmond Babatunde Edwards, has disclosed that HIV prevalence is highest among sex workers in the country, accounting for 11.8%.
He was delivering his Keynote address as the Guest of Honour in commemoration of World Aids Day on the theme: “Equalize: Achieving Equality to End AIDS.”
Referencing the Integrated Bio-Behavioural Surveillance report released by the National AIDS Secretariat in 2021, Chief Justice Edwards revealed that HIV’s prevalence among Transgender is 4.2%, people who use drugs is 4.2%, men who have sex with men (3.4%) and people in Correctional Facilities (3.2%).
According to the Chief Justice, “we must take action to protect the rights and dignity of all Sierra Leoneans infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.
“We must work together to address all structural, legal, and systemic barriers that drive inequalities and fuel HIV infections. We must commit ourselves to end all forms of HIV related stigma and discrimination to enable the country End AIDS as public health threat by 2030 as envisaged in the sustainable development goal,” he said.
The Chief Justice however said that uptake of HIV prevention and testing services remains low among that population groups due to high rate of stigma, discrimination, and arbitrary arrest that they face, which pushes them underground and contribute to the spread of HIV in the general populations.
He said that Section 15 of the1991 Constitution ensures the fundamental human rights and freedom of every person in Sierra Leone, adding that the National AIDS Commission Act, No. 11 of 2011 guarantees the rights of all people in Sierra Leone to HIV prevention and treatment services and protections for people living with or affected by HIV.
He therefore made the following recommendations as actions for or by governments, civil society and international bodies to accelerate HIV and human rights: