Liberia: NAC, PEPFAR Conclude Anti-Discrimination, Advocacy Conference

Photo of the participants at the national stigma, discrimination and advocacy conference at the EJS Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

The National AIDS Commission (NAC) in partnership with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has ended a two day National Stigma, Discrimination and Advocacy 2023 Conference in Liberia.

The event, which was recently held at Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, was held under the theme, “Get Involved and End Stigma Discrimination.”

It was intended to bring an end to the stigmatization and discrimination of those living with HIV and AIDS in Liberia.

Theodosius Kolee, NAC ChairPerson, extended appreciation to the participants for their presence at the event and told them that they made the event a member.  

“Your presence at this event was tremendously appreciated,” she said. “I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that we cannot end AIDS if we do not end stigma discrimination.”

Meanwhile, she urged the participants to go back to their various communities and tell the people not to stigmatize or discriminate against anyone.

“We are all Liberians and leaving from here today is a sign that in our community, we have to tell our people that there should be no more stigmatization and discrimination,” Kolee noted. “When you stigmatize people, they will go away and our country's HIV status will increase.”

According to her, they don’t want HIV to increase in Liberia as there are five million people in Liberia and thirty four thousand four hundred and thirty one people living with HIV and AIDS.

“We don’t want to exceed, let us avoid stigmatization,” she said. “We should not stigmatize, we should not discriminate, let us hold together and embrace each other. If Liberians want to end HIV and AIDS in Liberia or to meet their target come 2030, they need to put away stigma and discrimination.”

Evans L. Adofo, Chairman, LIPRIDE, who read the petition statement and call to action, expressed gratitude on behalf of the communities and representative of the people living with HIV and vulnerable populations, adolescent girls and young women to the Government of Liberia, USAID, PEPFAR, the Global Fund, European Union, Swedish Embassy and other development partners and strategic stakeholders for recognizing the effect of stigma and discrimination in the HIV and AIDS response and for supporting the conference.

According to him, they recognize the strategic contribution of PEPFAR’s to the global HIV and AIDS response which has saved over twenty- five million livers within the past twenty years.

“We acknowledge the contributions of Global Fund, UNAIDS and other key partners to the AIDS response in Liberia,” he said. “We also recognize the incremental process made so far in the country’s national HIV response towards achieving the global UNAIDS targets by 2030, with Liberia’s achievement currently standing at 77-94-84.”

He added that they are concerned about the high levels of stigma and discrimination, which continue to limit access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services for many Liberians.

“For this reason, we the members of Civil Society Organizations and representatives of people living with HIV and key and vulnerable populations hereby call on the Government of Liberia,” he said. 

He further said, the Government should review and repeal all discriminatory and repressive laws, policies and institute measures to protect the rights and dignity of the population.

We also call on religious and traditional leaders to initiate and lead a compassion campaign against HIV related stigma and discrimination and support the full implementation of the U=U campaign.” He added that we are also calling on the government of Liberia through the Independent National Human Rights Commission to strengthen the existing complaint desk and redress mechanism to address HIV- related human right violations.

He continued by calling on the media to refrain from promoting and broadcasting inciting and discriminatory messages and encouraged them to build healthy partnerships with the communities to strengthen response to stigma discriminations.

In addition, Adofo calls on all stakeholders to increase investment to strengthen the capacities of community led organizations to accelerate community led responses, monitoring and progress towards achieving the 30-60-80 targets.

“We call on the Government of Liberia to demonstrate greater leadership, ownership and communities toward achieving HIV epidemic control in line with the SDG 3.3 on ending HIV as a public health threat by 2020.” Adofo said we also call on the government of Liberia and all partners to facilitate greater participation and value the involvement of PLHIV, KP and AGYW in program and policy design, implementation and monitoring to ensure more effective programming.

The chairman mentioned that he calls on the government to ensure all HIV services are provided in an environment free of stereotype, stigma, and discrimination at all levels.

He also called on the government and all partners to increase support and investments for the National HIV and AIDS response and aggressively pursue localization and social contracting to facilitate community led service delivery.

“We call on the Government of Liberia and partners to increase data security and privacy and strengthen national capacity for data driven decision making and program design,” he said.