By Yusufu S. Bangura
Senior Technical Advisor for Human Rights and Key Population at HIV/AIDS Secretariat, Amara S. Lebbie, has disclosed that over 81,000 people are living with HIV across Sierra Leone, with over 22,000 not on treatment, a development he says places the country under threat.
Lebbie further disclosed that 11.8% of female sex workers have Human Immune Virus (HIV).
He made the above disclosure on June 21st during a one day media engagement at their head office, 15A Belliar Park, Off Dwazark Farm in Freetown.
The engagement was funded by the Global Fund Against HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Consortium for the Advancement of Rights of Key Affected Population (CARKAP).
“According to 2019 Sierra Leone Demography Survey, the national adult prevalence is 1.7%. In as much as the prevalence is low, it should be noted that it has nearly doubled over the past two decades because it has increased from 0.9% in 2002 to 1.7% in 2019,” he said.
Among key populations from 2021 to date, Lebbie said female sex workers represent 11.8%, which means they have more HIV status than men.
“Having sex with men is 3.4%, transgender is 5.2%, people who inject drugs is 4.2% and people in close setting is 3.7%,” he said.
He continued that the HIV status of those groups are higher than the national data, which means that they have to pay attention to those groups by providing services to them for HIV to have an epidemic control.
He said they have introduced Self-Test Kids that someone can use to test his or herself.
In relation to the human rights aspect for people living with HIV, Lebbie said the Secretariat has developed a Human Rights Strategy which involves every stakeholder groups for them to look at how they should control the epidemic in the country.
He said the strategy guides them on how to make provision to work with the Judiciary, police, and Human Rights Commission for them to ensure that they provide enable environment for people living with HIV.
He said they engaged the media to provide them with accurate information, direction on the HIV epidemic status, challenges facing it and the human rights position as a country that they have put in place to be able to support the response for HIV/AIDS.
He said HIV epidemic in Sierra Leone is feminise, yet affects different population sub-groups and all sectors of life.
He further said the government has commissioned the development of NSP 2021-2025 as part of the national drive towards the vision of ending HIV and AIDS as a public health threat and have an AIDS free Sierra Leone.
The Director General, National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), Abdul Rahman Chernoh Sesay, said the secretariat was established by an Act of Parliament in 2002 and located in the Office of the President, to coordinate a multi-sectoral effort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and mitigate its impact in Sierra Leone.
He said Secretariat is committed to providing leadership in the coordination of HIV/AIDS programs and activities of all stakeholders in Sierra Leone by developing, implementing and coordinating an effective strategic plan that addresses prevention, treatment, care and assures the preservation of human right.
He said the Consortium for the Advancement of Rights of Key Affected Population (CARKAP) is a coordinating entity for the national response in HIV and AIDS focusing on key population.
The Director General said they were working closely with the consortium because they are not in the implementation but they coordinate and that the consortium is helping them to reach out to everyone by providing them with information for them to address some of the missing links.
He continued that for the HIV responses, they were not leaving anyone behind as they use public health approach to ensure that they provide service for everyone.
He encouraged everyone to make sure that they test and treat themselves for HIV for the betterment of the country.