Despite the many challenges faced by advocacy groups championing the rights of people living with HIV, the response remains strong throughout the country with a call from the Lutheran Church in Liberia’s (LCL) HIV and AIDS program Advocacy officer for lessons on HIV and AIDS to be taught from elementary to high school levels in Liberia.
According to the LCL HIV and AIDS Program Advocacy officer, Batie Nah, “This move would help the younger generation build the campaign against HIV and AIDS while making them aware of the harmful effect it has on the Liberian society.”
Mr. Nah made his assertion over the weekend in an exclusive interview with journalists.
He stressed that there was a need for more awareness in schools, offices and communities where there are people living with the virus. “We need more education in every corner of our society to help reduce the spread of HIV in Liberia,” he added.
He said if the next generation is sensitized about HIV and AIDS issues, Liberia would reach its goal of a zero infection rate soon; and stigma and discrimination against people living with the virus would reduce.
The LCL HIV and AIDS Advocacy and IEC Officer called on the Liberian government to take this move seriously in order to save the country’s younger generation; adding: “Half of our population consists of young people, so we have to move the campaign to another level.”
Commenting on the issue of stigma and discrimination, he indicated that Liberia is yet to have a stigma and discrimination free atmosphere, thus causing a lot of problems in the disclosure of HIV positive status.
“Most families neglect their relatives and loved ones because of their HIV status, this is making them feel isolated from society,” he disclosed.
Nah maintained that most people are not willing to accept their status, thereby causing more harm than good for the national HIV and AIDS in the country.
According to him, acceptance of status and adherence to treatment would help reduce the spread of the virus and prolong life span of the infected, noting that this can only happen in a stigma and discrimination free society.
He further noted that the rate of stigma and discrimination in rural Liberia is higher than that of Monrovia and its environs; he further stressed that the rural parts of the country are being cut off from more awareness on the issues of stigma and discrimination.
Mr. Nah said the LCL HIV and AIDS Program has expanded in order to reach rural dwellers on this epidemic, and is also collaborating with various community-based groups to enhance the awareness campaign.
He cautioned Liberians to accept their family members infected with HIV to encourage them and give them hope.
The 13th Street stationed Lutheran Church in Liberia HIV and AIDS program was established over eight years ago and provides voluntary testing and counseling for people living with the virus as well as people whose families are infected.