The National AIDS Commission of Liberia (NACL), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), recently commemorated World AIDS Day in Liberia.
The event took place on December 1, 2023, at the basketball gym of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville. The global theme for this year’s World AIDS Day was “LET COMMUNITIES LEAD”, while the national theme for Liberia was “Communities Lead with Equality and Diversity to End AIDS”.
World AIDS Day is celebrated worldwide and serves as an opportunity for people to come together in the fight against HIV and AIDS, show support for individuals living with HIV, and remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related complications. It is an internationally recognized health day that allows for increased awareness and highlights the progress made in terms of treatment services and prevention.
During the commemoration ceremony, Joseph B.N. Kowo, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Health Services in the AFL, served as the national orator. He emphasized the importance of community involvement in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Liberia. Kowo stated that Liberia must achieve the UNAIDS global target of 95-95-95 by 2030, as several other African countries have already met this target, including Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
“One of the main components to the success in these countries is their postures on human rights abuse that led to their milestones,” he disclosed. “Botswana recognized that when human rights are protected, fewer people become infected and those living with HIV and their families can better cope with the disease.”
Kowo highlighted the significance of protecting human rights, as it plays a crucial role in preventing further infections, supporting individuals living with HIV, and reducing the impact of the disease in communities and societies.
Addressing the challenges faced by Liberia in combating HIV and AIDS, he cited the 2018 Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) which, he said, revealed high HIV prevalence among key populations.
For example, men who have sex with men, female sex workers, and people who inject drugs had prevalence rates of 37.9%, 16.7%, and 9.6% respectively.
“Before we strategize to empower our communities to lead this effort,” he said, “let’s keep in mind the current challenges we all face as a nation. The 2018 Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) showed that HIV prevalence is high among key populations. The results showed that men who have sex with men, female sex workers, and people who inject drugs had 37.9%, 16.7%, and 9.6% prevalent rates, respectively.”
Kowo also mentioned that Liberia recorded an estimated 1,000 new HIV infections and 1,100 HIV-related deaths annually. He emphasized the need for collective efforts to achieve the global target, highlighting the importance of keeping communities engaged in the HIV response to avoid failure.
Wokie Cole Doe, the President of LibNeP+, also delivered a statement during the World AIDS Day commemoration. She expressed her appreciation to President George M. Weah and the Chairman of the National AIDS Commission Board of Directors for their leadership in supporting Liberia’s HIV response.
Doe acknowledged the critical juncture at which the AIDS response stands, with only seven years remaining to achieve the 2030 targets. She emphasized the ongoing threat posed by HIV to the country’s health, economic, and political sectors.
“The war against societal issues undermines the HIV response. It is not over. Therefore, HIV is still here and poses a threat to the country’s health, economic, and political sectors. Liberia has a general HIV epidemic, with reproductive HIV populations showing an HIV prevalence of 2.1%,” she said.
Liberia currently faces a general HIV epidemic, with a prevalence of 2.1% among reproductive HIV populations.
Meanwhile, the commemoration of World AIDS Day in Liberia serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight against HIV and AIDS. The collaboration between NAC, the Ministry of Health, and the Armed Forces of Liberia underscores the commitment to achieving the UNAIDS global target by 2030. With community leadership and collective efforts, Liberia aims to create an AIDS-free nation, addressing issues such as stigma and discrimination while focusing on social determinants and sustainable financing to support the prevention and management of HIV and AIDS.