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COCORIOKO » Blog Archive » Sierra Leone Mission holds mini-press Conference on UN High-Level HIV/AIDS Meeting

Sierra Leone Mission holds mini-press Conference on UN High-Level HIV/AIDS Meeting

By KABS KANU:
  The Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations yesterday held a mini-press conference on the UN High-Level HIV/AIDS Meeting which starts today at the General Assembly. Present at the press conference, which was organized by the Department of News and Public Affairs of the Mission, were the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura; Dr. Brima Kargbo, the National Coordinator of the HIV/AIDS Program in Sierra Leone; Mr. Idrissa Songo, the National Coordinator of the Network of HIV Positives in Sierra Leone; Mrs. Valerie Tucker, the Civil Society representative from the National HIV Advocacy Network; Madam Marie Marilyn Jalloh, MP for Constituency 35, Bombali, who is Chair of the HIV/AIDS Committee in Parliament; the Focal point, Mrs.Victoria Sulimani and Minister Plenipotentiary, who is also in charge of News and Public Affairs.The Focal Point, Mrs. Victoria Sulimani, presented a briefing on arrangements so far made for the delegation from Freetown and the Mission representing Sierra Leone at the three-day Conference which will also be attended by many Heads of State of some countries.

The Minister of Health, Madam Zainab Bangura, gave a detailed presentation on the purposes of the meeting. She said that the meeting is a ten-year review of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.  It must be recalled that in 2001, the UN had its first ever special session on HIV/AIDS during which it adopted the Declaration of Commitment. In 2006, the UN had another special session during which the Political Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was also adopted. She disclosed that the meeting is a strategic one during which countries will be talking about their experiences with HIV/AIDS, programs set up to combat the disease, their commitments, challenges, progress, the levels they have reached and their achievements since the disease was first diagnosed 30 years ago.
Minister Bangura said that the conference will be very important for Sierra Leone because last year she won one of the 2010 Millenium Development Goals (MDG) AWARDS for taking very significant step in efforts to fulfill one of the MDGS:  Goal No.6 –Combatting HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES.

Q:  WHAT IS THE STORY OF HIV/AIDS IN SIERRA LEONE?
Dr. Brima Kargbo, the National Coordinator, responded that it is a low-level epidemic. “We have stabilized it at 1.5% and the number of people being treated is 6,000. 61% of people eligible are receiving free treatment and 84% of these survive after one year of treatment.”

Q. HOW DOES A PATIENT BECOME ELIGIBLE?
Dr. Kargbo replied that a patient becomes eligible after he/she is diagnosed and qualifies for treatment.

Q. IS SIERRA LEONE RECEIVING ANY SUPPORT IN HER EFFORTS TO COMBAT HIV/AIDS?
Dr. Kargbo responded in the affirmative. He named those providing support, apart from the national government, as: The Global Fund; UN Partners- UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, the German Development Bank -who are the main sponsors of the HIV/AIDS Program.

Q. WHAT KIND OF ASSISTANCE ARE THEY PROVIDING?
According to Dr.Kargbo, they are providing technical and financial assistance (To ensure Support, care and treatment ).

Q. WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO STABILIZE HIV/AIDS IN SIERRA LEONE:
Dr. Kargbo responded: “Sierra Leone adopted a multi-sectoral approach by bringing all sectors together to combat the disease -Civil society, government, the Business coalition etc.”  Mrs. Marie Jalloh said: “There is a committee in Parliament on HIV/AIDS. We have a very strong civil society network. We have also reviewed the HIV Law dealing with discrimination, stigmatization and decriminalization of pregnant women and girls. The review process is on and this will be passed into law. There is also a review from a National Aids Secretariat to a National Aids Commission.”

Q. FOR THE PROGRAM TO HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL, YOU MUST HAVE CREATED AWARENESS ABOUT THE DEADLINESS OF THE DISEASE AMONG THE POPULATION.HOW DID YOU DO IT?
Dr. Kargbo said that the awareness was created through radio, TV and newspapers. “We engaged in a lot of awareness-raising activities.”

Q. YOU SAID YOU HAVE KEPT NEW INFECTIONS AT VERY LOW LEVELS . HOW DID YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT?
Dr. Kargbo: “First of all, through the distribution of condoms; then peer education among the youth; screening of 100% of blood being transfused which helped significantly to reduce new infections and led to stabilization. We also tried to break the myth around it and gave it a human face -No shame or guilt.”

WE WILL BRING YOU FULL REPORTS OF THE CONFERENCE


From Left:  Minister Bangura, Mr. Songo, Dr. Kargbo, and MP Marie Jalloh


Minister Zainab Bangura and Mrs. Tucker at the Press Conference


The Focal Point, Mrs. Sulimani

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