UNAIDS’ new Country Director, Ms. Miriam Chipimo, says she looks forward to contributing to the response of HIV prevalence in Liberia, picking up from where her predecessor, Dr. Betru Woldesemayat, left off.
Presenting her letters of credence to Foreign Affairs Minister Marjon Kamara in Monrovia recently, Ms. Chipimo stated: “We haven’t reached most of the people around the country for testing; we have only reached 26 percent of those who are positive with the virus.” She also indicated that of the estimated 40,000 persons living with the virus throughout the country, 6,000 of them need treatment.
To tackle the serious HIV prevalence in the country, Chipimo said UNAIDS, working with stakeholders including the National AIDS Commission, Ministry of Health and other partners, have developed a “Catch-up Plan” for Liberia which sets targets at 2020.
She indicated that they have initially identified three counties- Montserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa- considered to be the hosts of the highest prevalence rates of HIV in the country, where they will kick off the “Catch-up Plan.”
Ms. Chipimo confirmed that 80 percent of the population with the virus is in the three aforementioned counties. The stakeholders have targeted these counties to shortly begin the program since Liberia is one of four countries that are way behind in meeting the targets.
Already, three other countries are being prioritized for the “Catch-up Plan” including Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Senegal, which will be highlighted during the upcoming ECOWAS Summit in June 2017, said Chipimo.
Ms. Chipimo frowned on the absence of a clear strategy to test the male population; identifying hotspots as well as groups that are the real targets – homosexuals, the transgender, migrants, among others.
The new UNAIDS Director emphasized that women are the most vulnerable, while infected children choose not to disclose their status because of the stigma. “We need an agenda to deal with stigma,” she warned, adding, “I think we can do it; but Liberia with its small population makes the country vulnerable.”
Ms. Miriam Chipimo, before being posted to Liberia, served as senior adviser, policy and strategy of the UNAIDS Caribbean sub-regional team in Kingston, Jamaica.
Before then, from September 2013 to October 2015, she served as senior strategic intervention adviser of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team at the Port of Spain, Trinidad; and earlier, as senior policy and program adviser at the UNAIDS Country Office in Pretoria, South Africa.
She holds several degrees including a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Nairobi, Kenya; a Medical Degree (MD) from the Medical Institute, Plovdiv, Bulgaria; and before then completed pre-medical school at the University of Zambia. She is also proficient in eight languages.
According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry release, Minister Marjon Kamara welcomed Ms. Chipimo to Liberia at a brief ceremony in the Ministry recently, and expressed her delight that as a female, the UNAIDS Director is moving the work of the UN agency forward in Liberia.