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ACC Must Probe HIV Projects in Sierra Leone

ACC Must Probe HIV Projects in Sierra Leone

Recently, the Global Fund donated forty-nine million US Dollars to support HIV activities in Sierra Leone; the donation is just one of the series of donations Global Fund has been pouring into this country to prevent new infection and to provide nutritional, educational and other forms of support for those already infected or affected by the pandemic.

However, it sounds paradoxical that the more Global Fund keeps donating fabulous sums of money, the more HIV patients keep multiplying and the more miserably many of them continue living with the virus. This is evident in the unpleasant and undeniable fact that, almost everyday, HIV support groups in the provinces, especially, are flooded with new clients referred by the counselors after proving them positive. The deprivation suffered by People Living with HIV, PLHIVs, is also manifested by the sad fact that, last year, the Network of HIV Positives, NETHIPS-Sierra Leone, could not hold their Annual General Meeting due to lack of funds, as confirmed by the Executive Director, Idrissa Songo.

Moreover, the thirty-three PLHIVs who were trained in peer counseling over a year ago and promised employment have still not been employed because, according to Mr. Songo, funds are not yet available to employ them. This is a vivid display of the fact that PLHIVs are not treated with deserved seriousness although they are bearing the brunt of the HIV pandemic. Where then is the meaningful involvement of PLHIVs? It appears that a lion’s share of the funding donated for HIV activities end up in the bottomless pockets of voracious authorities who pretend to be working in the interest of HIV patients. While many authorities dealing with HIV activities keep building very expensive houses and luxuriating in flashy vehicles, many of the PLHIVs continue to languish, a situation which I consider as a shameless exploitation of sick people.

Sometime ago in Bo, senior officials of a support group called the Association of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS, AHPREL, openly embezzled a huge sum of money meant for livelihood support for PLHIVs and the matter was reported to the Regional Coordinator of the National AIDS Secretariat, NAS, South, Mr. Kargbo, but all that was done was to dismiss the officials and sweep the matter under the carpet. This incident led me to believe that the support group coordinators are embezzling funds with impunity because they have the blessing of some senior officials in NAS and some other donor agencies.

I can clearly recall that during the last AGM held in Kenema in 2011, even the NETHIPS Executive Director publicly confessed that some support group executives were misappropriating food and other supplies meant for PLHIVs and vowed to take police action against them but never did, so, PLHIVs are left at the mercy of their coordinators as even the donors do not properly monitor to ascertain whether their donations are indeed meeting the target beneficiaries

In view of the foregoing, I am calling on the Anti-Corruption Commission to thoroughly investigate the use of funds donated for HIV activities as they are funds meant for the public good.

By Joseph Milton Lebbie

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