– WHO Regional Director Urges Treatment for All
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director for the African region, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, is urging all member states of the UN specialized agency to prioritize treatment for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Dr. Moeti, in her World AIDS Day Message to Africa, said that everybody should count in striving to achieve more rapid and sustainable progress towards universal health coverage for all people living with HIV. She narrated a story of a 14-year old Cameroonian boy who was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 after his mother had died of tuberculosis.
“My family gave me support, love and care and the doctors gave me medicines. The medicine will make me live a normal life and strengthen my body. I love going to school and studying and I hope to become a doctor one day so that I can look after other HIV positive people,” the WHO Regional Director quotes little Alex as saying. She added: “Just like Alex, all people have the right to health no matter their age, sex and where they are born.”
The day, which is staged annually on December 1, is being celebrated under the global theme, “Right to Health,” with a local theme, “Making Liberia HIV Free.’’
Dr. Moeti assured that there is hope of ending the disease in the African Region by 2030.
She said due to the rapid scale-up of HIV treatment and existing HIV prevention interventions, AIDS-related deaths in the region have dropped by more than half – from over 1.5 million in 2005 to about 720, 000 in 2016. “For the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in Africa have access to life-saving HIV treatment, which reached almost 14 million people by the end of 2016. This puts the region on track to achieving the target of 23 million people on treatment by 2020.”
Moeti, however, warned that young people, especially young women, continue to be at great risk of HIV infection.
According to UNAIDS, in 2016, Liberia had 2,900 new HIV infections and 2,800 AIDS-related deaths. There were 43,000 people living with HIV in 2016, among whom 19 percent were accessing antiretroviral therapy. UNAIDS disclosed that an estimated 500 children were newly infected with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission.