As part of effort to develop a new strategy for the Global AIDS response, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV&AIDS (UNAIDS) has concluded a day’s consultation with stakeholders in Liberia with the aim of developing a new strategy to combat the disease.
The consultation was organized with support from UNAIDS at the Royal Hotel, Sinkor-Monrovia on 12th March, 2015.
Speaking at the opening of the consultation, Dr Betru Woldesemayat, UNAIDS County Director said the UNAIDS Global Strategy on HIV&AIDS of 2011 will expired at the end of 2015 and thus the need to develop a new strategy has become eminent.
“We are presented with a critical opportunity and obligation to discuss and arrive at an understanding of where we have succeeded and where challenges remain – and collectively define what we must achieve by 2021 and what must be done differently to get there. Hence, the country consultation seeks to solicit the opinion and recommendations of government partners, private sector, development partners, CSOs, people living with HIV and other key populations,” Dr. Woldesemayat noted.
Earlier welcoming participants, Dr Wilfred Boayue, the National AIDS Commission (NAC) Commissioner for program emphasised that a lot has been achieved since the UNAIDS, soon to expire, strategy was developed in 2011 and prospects for collectively defeating HIV by 2030 is very high.
Dr. Boayue further said that NAC and its partners have developed a new National Strategic Plan (NSP 2015-2020) to help address most of the gaps in the National HIV and AIDS response, as such, he encourages participants to reflect on specific interventions in the NSP(2015-2020) towards achieving the global targets.
“If the NSP is fully implemented, Liberia will be able to significantly reduce new HIV infections, eliminate mother to child transmission, scale up treatment, provide the enabling environment, reduce stigma and promote the rights of key populations, who are major drivers of the epidemic in Liberia,” the NAC commissioner maintained.
For his part, Mr Tony Sonkaly, assistant minister for administration and safety of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), who officially opened the consultation, praised national and international effort to address the HIV pandemic in the Country.
He said the government of Liberia will remain committed to protecting the rights of everyone in the country towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
Also, making a PowerPoint Presentation on the priorities of the consultation, Mr Isaac Ahemesah, UNAIDS Rights, Gender, and Community Mobilization Adviser, said significant progress has been made since the establishment of UNAIDS in 1994.
“Since 2001, new HIV infections have fallen by 38% – to 2.1 million new HIV infections in 2013 (15 countries accounted for 75% of these new infections. New infections among children have fallen by 58%, dropping below 200,000 in the 21 most affected countries in Africa for the first time. Record numbers of people (13.6 million) are accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicines, contributing to steady declines in the number of AIDS-related deaths and further buttressing efforts to prevent new infections. The scale-up of collaborative HIV/TB activities (including HIV testing, antiretroviral therapy and recommended preventive measures) prevented 1.3 million people from dying from 2005 to 2012,” Mr. Ahemesah maintained.
However, the UNAIDS Official noted that if the world is to succeed in defeating HIV and AIDS totally, much will depend on plans and programmes to be implemented by countries and regional groups over the next 6 years.
“The “6 I” – Information (evidence) for sound Innovations, Investment, Integration of services delivered and Implemented through Inclusive engagement of key populations,” He said would be better approach to defeating AIDS by 2030.
He further that the new 2016-2030 plan would focus on the need to frontload investment to fast track the achievement of the 90-90-90 target which is the new plan UNAIDS hoping to achieve in the next 6 years.
“We must ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status; and that 90% of the people who know their status are on treatment and that 90% of those on treatment have suppressed viral load. Our future response should be about people, place and innovations.
In achieving the new plan, Mr. Ahemesah further said there is the need for countries to focus on hot spots, urban centres and slums where majority of the new infections occur.
“We must ensure that that HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services target people and places where they are most needed,” Mr Ahemesah emphasized.