Legal Aid urges MPs to strengthen HIV/AIDS policies


July 4, 2019

By Jariatu S. Bangura

Members of Parliament, Legal Aid Board and NAS DG on the high table

Officials of the Legal Aid Board and National Aids Secretariat have called on lawmakers to help strengthen HIV/AIDs policies and to also review the National AIDs Commission Act 2011.

They yesterday engaged the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Human Rights, and Legislative, on laws and human rights barriers in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the reduction of stigma and discrimination against key populations across the country.

Chairman for the programme, Alhaji Algassimu Sesay said they cannot do anything without the involvement of lawmakers as they play key roles in sensitizing their constituents about HIV Aids.

He said for a couple of years now, they have been sending the message out but that it has been difficult for them nationwide.

He said there were too many stigmatizations among the key population across the country, thus urging them to help reduce it drastically as eradicating it has been difficult.

Executive Director of Legal Aid Board, Madam Fatmata Carlton-Hanciles commended the three committees as they have been active in their work.

She stated that out of the 16 districts, only 2 are without their office.

She said women who formed critical part of population have been neglected and that female sex workers, homosexual, people living with HIV/AIDS in communities have also been abandoned and were not cared for, which was a recipe  to spreading the virus.

She said they have been working together with National AIDS Secretariat with the aim to reducing the alarming rate of the virus. She said though there are laws on HIV /AIDS, but the illness was still shrouded in secrecy which he said was dangerous.

She called on lawmakers to open up on the disease as it is causing lot of problem and that victims will continue to spread it in silence, thus calling for the review of the Act and policies be set to address the situation.

According to the Director General of National HIV/AIDS Secretariat, Abdul Rahman Sesay HIV had been and was still a killer disease, but people were failing to know that it could be cured.

He said they are targeting key population and among them were the dangerous one that failed to go for treatment but rather continue to spread it out secretly.

He said they have started the fight since 2008 and the sensitization was still ongoing and the percentage of prevalence was about 10 to 12 percent.

He urged parliamentarians to review the 2011 National AIDs Commissions Act and also take the executive to task by visiting all the community health centers and PHUs in their constituencies to ascertain whether HIV/AIDS drugs were there as most times the drugs get expired because of lack of usage.

He said most times government would have to pay huge sums of money for those expired drugs.

The Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Health, Hon. Moses Jorkie said the issue of HIV concerns all. He assured them that they will do what they can to spread the message to their constituents.

He said MPs needed to be capacitated in order to spread the message to their various constituencies, hence assuring them that parliament was in full force to review the legislation in order to help address the situation.

Deputy Chairman of Human Rights Committee, Hon. Momoh Bockarie commended the officials from Legal Aid Board and National AIDs Secretariat and urged them to pay attention to university students as they are key in having the virus especially in the participation in social activities.

He said they should also consider the refugees as a lot of them were coming from other countries without proper checkup, adding that pregnant women also need to make themselves available in order to protect the unborn children.

Speaking on behalf the Chairman of the Legislative Committee, Hon. Hafiju M. Kanja said there were legal frameworks that are there to address HIV issues, but most time the wrong kits are being used to conduct the test on people and sometimes it causes stigma in the lives of people.

He said the AIDs Secretariat should make sure that the actual testing kits are distributed in the PHUs and Health centres and also there should be counseling desk as to guide the people before HIV test are conducted on them.