Ebola Hampers Nat’l HIV Response

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The National AIDS Commission (NAC) has revealed that people living with HIV and AIDS who should be on treatment are only 25 percent receiving treatment in Liberia.

Addressing a news conference at the launch of World AIDS Day to be officially celebrated on Monday, December 1, under the global theme, “Close the gap”, the NAC Chairperson, Ivan Camanor said the gaps in HIV and AIDS cases are mainly in the areas of prevention, treatment and other service provision areas.

Dr. Camanor called for the need to place more people on treatment, prevent HIV infection in children, and provide services in key populations to include those who are at high risks of contracting the virus either as a result of their lifestyle or factors beyond their control.

He described some of the lifestyles and factor to mean commercial sex workers, people using drugs, men having sex with men and youths in and out of school and said the national theme for this year’s observance of World AIDS Day is, “Addressing the impact of Ebola on the National HIV Response.”

The NAC boss said the Ebola virus crisis has affected the national HIV response in several ways to include the closure of health facilities thereby making it difficult for people living with the HIV to access treatment, lack of counseling and testing centers as well as the impossibility of holding support group meetings.

He said to respond to the challenges posed by the Ebola virus, the National AIDS and STI Control Program (NACP) has opened an emergency treatment center on the compound of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and that centers have been established throughout the country to provide treatment for people living with HIV.

He disclosed further that because of the Ebola outbreak, more drugs were given out to people living with HIV during the crisis therefore the drugs given were intended to last for a longer period.

Meanwhile, re-launching the national response initiative, the NAC has derived three measures to constitute its priority for 2015 and beyond and also to use the World AIDS Day celebration to create awareness of the national HIV response, carry out an assessment of the impact of Ebola on the national HIV response.

Progress already made in the reduction of HIV and AIDS from the Liberian society include ensuring the decline in new HIV infections, the elimination of new HIV infections in children, more people living with HIV receiving treatment, AIDS related deaths declining and stigma and discrimination reducing also.

The Country Director of UNAIDS, Betru Tekle Worldesemayat lauded the high political commitment in addressing issues of HIV and AIDS in the country and pledged the UN continuous support to the national response.

Mr. Woldesemayat said in the future, the UN plan is to restore the basic services of HIV and AIDS response while the coordinator of people living with HIV, Joejoe Baysah said the major problems they are faced with since the Ebola crisis has been the lack of receiving medication on time, proper counseling and the holding of their regular support group meeting which had helped in encouraging them to live positively.