By: Osman Turay
Sierra Leone joined the world on 1st December 2022 to commemorate WORLD AIDS day at the Milton Margai Technical University auditorium Goderich. The annual celebration witnessed a number of activities including a symposium organized by the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat.
In his opening remarks the Chairperson of the occasion Dr. Francis Smart reminded the gathering that the United Nations General Assembly in 1988 set aside this date for the commemoration.
He said since then, Sierra Leone has always joined the world to commemorate the day.
“This is a commitment made by world leaders to respond to HIV/AIDS pandemic and this is why we are gathering here today. The theme for this year’s World AIDS day “Equalize: Achieving Equality to End AIDS”
The Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, His Lordship Justice Babatunde Edwards giving the keynote address said the theme “EQUALIZE” our motives to draw closer our attention to the need of providing equal access to HIV preventions and treatment services for people in the country and beyond to lessen the pressures of stigma and discriminations in our environment.
Our gratitude goes to the National Aids Secretariat, Ministry of Health and Sanitation for the continuous leadership in controlling Aids pandemic in Sierra Leone 40years ago, the world was greeted with this deadly disease called Aids. The practical effects were like death sentence with a victim sanction to go through immense of hassle of life with no lifesaving education available, he said.
The Representative of AHF Mrs. Miatta Jambawai Kaisamba making her statement said since the first Aids disease was reported in Sierra Leone, it continues to remain a main major public health issue that affects millions of people.
We the NGOs are off track from delivery on the share commitment to end AIDS by 2030 and we are risking our resurgent not because we lack the knowledge or to beat Aids but because of structural in-equalities that obstruct proven provisions/solutions for HIV preventions and treatments. The data on the HIV response reveal that during the previous years of COVID-19 progress and against the HIV Pandemic has faltered. Resources have shrunken and millions of lives are at risk as a result, she said.
Madam Jambawai-Kaisamba said as CSOs joined partners to mark the day with the theme “EQUALIZE” she called on President Bio to recognize and address the politics which is holding back progress.
She said the HIV pandemic is not yet over and as leaders it is in their power to help change the pace of care and to ensure no child living with HIV is left behind.
Minister of Youth Affairs, Oman Bangura advised young people to take precautions of their sexual lifestyles.
He said they should direct their strength positively in creating opportunities and not to be misdirected on counterproductive adventures such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and dangerous sexual behavior.
The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Austin Demby launching the 2023 “Condomize” campaign and community based HIV prevention outreach clinic said people with AIDS must not be mistreated and that most times these people are being stigmatized because of the indifference.
He said HIV patients are most times healthy and strong with proper medication that will stay alive for long. Dr. Demby noted that since medicines are now discovered the virus can now be maintained and tackled as containers are always shipping in the country with HIV Drugs.
He said even at the moment lots of drugs are in the country but prevention is the most importance in terms of Aids otherwise the victims will continue to increase.