NAS commemorate World AIDS Day with a difference
National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS) eastern region, commemorated this year’s World Aids Day a different way. The occasion which was selected for the 1st of December 2012 started in Kenema on Friday 30th November with a stakeholders meeting at the Kenema District Council hall, with an inter school quiz competition which attracted five senior secondary schools and five pre-schools in which the Holy Trinity Secondary school emerged first with a total of 13 points followed by Luck’s Commercial secondary school with 10 points, while Sam Eta primary and preparatory school topped the primary level. A candle light procession with a vigil climaxed the occasion. (Photo: Participants at the meeting)
In his opening remarks Sahr Yambayu, the chairman of the programme, who doubles as a member of staff of ENCISS eastern region, welcomed all present and thanked the organizers for commemorating World Aids Day in Kenema noting that HIV/AIDS issues need attention and should to be treated with all seriousness. He called on all to always use condoms or stay with one partner.
NAS Regional Coordinator Mohamed M B Sisey said that Sierra Leone is joining the rest of the world as a global community to stand by people affected with HIV/AIDS, to remember those that have lost their lives and to renew their commitment to minimizing the pandemic. He pointed that they have made great strides in combating this disease, and an AIDS-free generation is now in sight.
The Regional Coordinator noted that here in Sierra Leone they are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating and adopting a multicultural approach, adding that they are investing in a comprehensive and affordable HIV prevention and care programme for those infected and affected by the virus by ensuring that, all people living with HIV have access to life-extending treatment. “Testing for HIV remains a top priority and an entry point to HIV prevention. Thanks to the ongoing scientific advancements, finding out your HIV status has never been easier and treatment is more effective than ever”.
Mohamed M B Sisey reiterated that on World AIDS Day, NAS in the Eastern Region partnered with other developmental organizations (local and international), to maintain this momentum towards an AIDS free generation and said that as the sole lead coordinating body, they are vigorously pursuing to ensure a stable and complete reduction of new infections and thus achieving the three zeros by 2015.
He furthered that NAS also supports research initiatives on how to improve HIV treatment to halt new cases as they have strengthened the coordination effort to ensure partners work with key pillar documents and strengthened Chiefdom AIDS Committees by popularizing national documents that guide the intervention towards zero new infections.
Sisey noted that they have established HIV documentation and resource centers that can help to bridge the knowledge gap of both the literate and illiterate on HIV issues.
He highlighted that the update of HIV related services that are available in the Eastern Region with regard to HIV counseling and testing, care and support, which includes a total of 157 HIV Counseling and Testing sites established and are functional; (72 Kenema, 40 Kailahun and 45 Kono, these include both private and public institutions) the number of people opting for HIV testing has drastically increased over the years, accompanied with a high uptake of condom usage in the region, the number of facilities providing PMTCT services reached 155 (70 Kenema, 45 Kono and 40 Kailahun).
Treatment and Care: This constitutes medication, education, food and financial support to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and people living with HIV (PLHIV), 28 centers have been established to offer highly active Anti-retro viral treatment to HIV positive clients (8 Kenema, 11 Kono and 8 Kailahun).
Five care and support groups are offering various forms of support to positive HIV patients and OVCs, three of which are in Kenema (HACSA, LIWITH and CECSHIP), 1 in Kailahun (CCSL) and 1 in Kono (PORSHE).
Currently 5 blood banks exist in different parts of the region (1 Kenema Government Hospital, 1 Panguma Hospital, 1 Segbwema, 1 Kailahun Government Hospital and 1 Kono). He boasted that coordination of partners and various stakeholders on HIV/AIDS issues is in full gear now and currently popularizing eight key HIV pillar documents to DACs, CACs, Youths and Women with funds provided by ENCISS and have procured audio visual equipment for former refugees and host communities with funds provided by UNHCR. He underscored that the Regional Management and staff remain committed to the aspiration of the NAS national goal towards the three zeros by 2015. The HIV/AIDS programme continues to demonstrate positive impact on the life of the people in the eastern region in particular and Sierra Leone in general.
He concluded by admonishing all to “Rescue the perishing, show care and support for the dying, snatch them as duty demands it; lift up the fallen, tell your family, friends other relatives that HIV/AIDS is real.
Delivering his keynote address the Minister of State East Williams Juana Smith said he thanked God for witnessing yet another World AIDS Day which is an annual event, noting that the World AIDS Day is a great way for individuals and communities to remember those that we have lost and support those who continue to be infected with HIV every day.
W J Smith reiterated that the millions who have come together with compassion and determination on this World AIDS Day, they say “Your blood, sweat and tears are changing the world”. We have moved from despair to hope, and the incident of new infection has reduced.
The Minister noted that in Sierra Leone, there has been a sustained and stable national multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic which has recorded some successes. “The pace of progress is quickened, what used to take a decade is now being accomplished in just 24 months. Now that we know rapid and massive scale-up of HIV programme is possible, they need to do more as a region to maintain their effort as only a thousand days is left before the deadline of the 2015 global AIDS target. So today, on world AIDS Day, let them renew their commitment and take it as shared responsibilities and regional solidarity to getting to zero new HIV Infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero AIDS stigma and discrimination”.
The Minister said that in the spirit of the Agenda for Prosperity, Dr. Ernest BaiKoroma, is very much committed to the improvement of the health of the people of this country. The Free Healthcare programme for Under Fives, Pregnant and lactating mothers is a point in case, whiles in the area of HIV, the president as Chairman of the National HIV/AIDS Council will continue to give his solid support to the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat –the Sole Coordinating Body of the national response to HIV/AIDS. The Minister continued that moving to the three zeros by 2015 requires total commitment and political will, and hereby reaffirms his government’s commitment and total support in this direction.
W J Smith said as the president once admonished in one of the NAC meetings, he stressed that we must continue to speak out openly about HIV/ AIDS. No progress will be achieved by being timid. We need to ensure that we replace widespread stigma and fear with hope and support. Each and every one of us can create such hope and provide such support.
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