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Sierra Leone
Wednesday, January 26, 2022

First Lady joins world leaders to call for smarter investments to end HIV/AIDS

Sierra Leone’s First Lady, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma

Sierra Leone’s First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma, last Wednesday joined world leaders to pledge support and commitment to the UNAIDS fast track approach to finding new and innovative ways of delivering essential healthcare to those in need.

The event, which took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on the eve of the historic 70th United Nations General Assembly, called for new investment and improvements in health service delivery to put the world on course to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The campaign is being led by the governments of Malawi and Kenya, together with UNAIDS.

Mrs. Koroma pledged to kick-start programs that are geared towards supporting the 2030 fast track approach to ending HIV.

In his statement, Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika said, “We believe we are on the right track, but reaching the fast targets won’t be easy, we must expand and scale up HIV services.”

The AIDS response to date has been the most successful response to any modern epidemic. There have been massive reductions in new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths over the past 15 years, and more than 15 million people now have access to antiretroviral therapy. To take the AIDS response forward, UNAIDS has developed a fast track approach to reach a set of time bound targets by 2020.

The targets include 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people on treatment having suppressed viral loads; they also include reducing new infections by 75% and achieving zero discrimination.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya said: “Over the last decades we have made great progress in combatting AIDS but it is still unfinished business. We must all continue to galvanize additional resources for the AIDS response, both international and domestic. We must invest in HIV prevention, care and treatment services because there is simply no other option.”

The massive scale up of services over the past 15 years has resulted in 30 million new HIV infections and 8 million deaths averted over the last 15 years. Putting people at the centre was one of the ways identified as essential to ending the AIDS epidemic. Where people at higher risk with HIV infection and people living with HIV are empowered to realize their human rights, uptake of HIV services has increased.

“I believe the AIDS epidemic can be ended within the next 15 years,” said Michele Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Now more than ever, we need means of implementation that are smart, efficient, sustainable, and most importantly, people centered.”

The meeting heard from young Elijah Zacchary, a 12 year-old Kenyan boy living with HIV, who spoke of his hopes for the future.

“Presidents, thank you for making the promise to end AIDS by 2030, but we must make sure that all children have access to treatment,” said Elijah. “My dream is that by the time I am 27 years old there shall be more stigma and I am still able to take my medication every day.”

The leaders called for greater engagement of communities and innovative, community led approaches to the delivery of health services.

Big challenges remain to end the epidemic. Of the 36.9 million people living with AIDS globally, 17.1 million do not know they have the virus and need to be reached with HIV testing services; around 22 million do not have access to HIV treatment including 1.8 million children.

In Sierra Leone, the National AIDS Secretariat is collaborating with the secretariat of the Organisation of African First Ladies (OAFLA) to introduce the HIV/Syphilis Rapid test kits for the prevention of mother to child transmission. Four thousand DUO rapid test kits were supplies by Alere diagnostics to the National AIDS Secretariat in July 2015 for this activity.

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