October 24, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Director General of the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat, Dr. Momodu Sesay, has disclosed that some 2,500 new HIV infections were recorded in 2015, which he said was a significant reduction as compared to 4,000 in 2010.
He made the above disclosure last Friday at the conference hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation during the signing ceremony of a Cooperation Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Secretariat in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Sesay said the prevalence of new HIV/AIDS infection was relatively low in Sierra Leone – about 1.5 percent among the general populace, adding that his Secretariat has been taking a multi-sectorial approach in order to eliminate the disease out of the country.
“Government has been helping us in mobilising resources for our operations. We recently got US$32 million from the Global Funds to conduct a rapid response and eradicate HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone,” he said.
Country Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michael Gboun, said Sierra Leone remains one of the countries that are trying to end HIV/AIDS by 2030, adding that the government has been providing the enabling environment to tackle the spread of new infections in the country.
“To tell you how important the government is committed to eliminate HIV/AIDS in the country, it is prioritized in the President’s Recovery plan under the health sector. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) has a role to play in ensuring that the disease is eradicated. Sierra Leone will probably be the first country in the sub region to eliminate HIV/AIDS due to the rapid response that the government has been doing,” he said.
He added: “It is our duty to help our brothers and sisters living with and affected by HIV. We have to ensure that no one is left behind. Together, we need to accelerate action. In the next two years, we are aiming to ensure that no child is born with HIV in Sierra Leone and that all children living with HIV have access to treatment.”
He, however, informed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation that they spent 60 percent of their budget on the office space they were currently occupying, noting that such money could have been used to refurbish some government building for sustainability, rather than spending it to pay private house owners.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Samura Kamara, said the signing and subsequent implementation of the Cooperation Agreement would be another step towards adding value to the work of the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat and other partners assisting in scaling-up support to fight HIV/AIDS, promoting outreach to sensitise the populace on preventive measures, as well as addressing issues of stigmatization.
He added that the Agreement would further contribute towards addressing one of the major threats to national economic and social development through the reduction of the incidence of HIV/AIDS, which was in line with the aspirations of the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity.
Dr. Kamara re-affirmed government’s commitment to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030.
“We need strong political will, community engagement, awareness, and participation and finally strong partnership,” he said.