The UNAIDS Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Dr. Djibril Diallo, has stated that UNAIDS sees Liberia as an island of hope in the fight against HIV&AIDS.
According to Dr. Diallo, their confidence in the ‘island of hope’ is based on the leadership role President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf played in the country’s fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease and “for being the tireless person that gave visibility to the response of Sierra Leone and Guinea, and not only in Africa but internationally.”
The visiting UN official addressed the press Thursday, July 28 in the Cabinet Room following a private meeting with the President.
Dr. Diallo stated that his boss, the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Undersecretary of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Michel Sidibé, highlighted the fact that at the height of the fight against the EVD, the President was also paying attention to the nation’s response to HIV&AIDS.
He disclosed that the UNAIDS has asked the President to serve as its Emergency Plan Leader for West and Central Africa.
According to him, their emergency plan for those regions is intended to bring more focus on their needs as it relates to their HIV&AIDS rate of infection. He added that they asked the President to fill in this role for two reasons.
The first is “The need for political mobilization throughout West and Central Africa comprising 25 countries, close to 65 million people with infection rate at 2.2 percent low but still very important. The second reason is to mobilize the international community to respond to the needs of West and Central
Africa,” the UNAIDS Regional Director stated.
Before he addressed the media, he had a private meeting with the President during which he delivered to her a special message from Undersecretary Sidibé.
He disclosed that during the meeting with the President, he informed her that UNAIDS intends to document “the Liberia experience” and put it at the disposal of not only Western and Central Africa but the whole international community.
“The Liberian story needs to be told much more forcefully in the media that matters, including regional and international media,” he stated.
He disclosed that there is already a plan to meet the international media in September, when the President will be in New York for a UN function.
Meanwhile, according to a Foreign Ministry release, before addressing the press and meeting the President, Dr. Diallo paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. B. Elias Shoniyin.
During their brief discussions, Mr. Shoniyin told the visiting UNAIDS Regional Director that Liberians were grateful for his visit.
“We are particularly pleased with your presence here. For us this is a manifestation of your commitment and partnership to confront the challenges as it relates to HIV&AIDS,” the Deputy Foreign Minister stated.
Mr. Shoniyin further said that everyone is aware that the disease is one of the major challenges in Africa, and that Liberia is no exception.
“You have come at a very critical period because I was informed a few weeks ago that the HIV prevalence in Liberia saw a marginal increase as compare to 2014/15.”
According to the Minister, this is of major concern to the government and people of Liberia particularly in light of the nation’s recent history with the deadly Ebola virus disease, which left the nation’s health sector and economy badly hit.
“We understand how HIV&AIDS has severely affected populations in some parts of Africa so once we heard of the increase, it became an extremely important concern to us,” he stated.
Mr. Shoniyin said when he heard that Diallo was visiting Liberia he thought that the visit was probably in response to the alarming increase in the rate of infections and to figure out together what can be done in partnership to tackle it.
He further told the Region Director that the UNAIDS office in Liberia has been collaborating with the Liberian Government in providing the necessary framework to the National Aids Commission (NAC).
He asked that Dr. Diallo, during the few days that he will be in the country, take a look at Liberia’s HIV&AIDS approach and programs and give his advice.
Dr. Diallo stated that notwithstanding the slight increase that Dep. Min. Shoniyin had mentioned, UNAIDS intends to use Liberia as an “island of hope” for the UN emergency plan for Western and Central Africa.
He said that these regions need more attention if the world is to attain the goal of ending HIV&AIDS.