Sierra Leone News: “Stigma is the biggest barrier in the fight against HIV” – NETHIPS

The Executive Director for the Network of HIV Positive in Sierra Leone, Idrissa Songo, has told stakeholders and government officials, “stigma is the greatest barrier in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country.” He said if stigma is not appropriately addressed has the tendency to affect efforts in the fight.
The Executive Director was speaking at the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat in collaboration with the National Commission for Children in Sierra Leone day seminar on status of ‘Children in National Response to HIV. At the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown on Wednesday 6 December 2017.
Songo said not much has not been done in the area of coordination in the response with people living with HIV. He said the issue of children has been missing in the entire process.
He called for effective programs for children, which is absent, to be put in place by targeting pregnant women to be tested despite the fact that it is ongoing in the country basic needs has not been provided to the children.
The NETHIPs Director highlighted issues of decentralization of facilities, non-availability of comprehensive data on children with HIV, those on treatment and feedback on their conditions that includes other social aspect. He said those living with HIV and is not with their parents needs to consider so he call on all to work collectively in ending HIV, which according to him can be eliminated when no child is born with HIV.
The Senior Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer at the National AIDS Secretariat, Victor Kamara, said the status of children with HIV in the country said the Demographic Housing Survey (DHS) in 2008 shows that HIV in the general population is 1.5% but went on that it prevalence and incidence rates might be rising in some population sub-groups.
Kamara said there are about 3,352 HIV-infected children below 15-years among which 1,705 representing 50.8% are male and 1,647 representing 49.2% are female. He said children between the ages of 0-14 constitute about 2.8% of the new infection in the country in 2017 which infection rate is about the same for both sexes.
The M&E Officer said out of the total annual death rate among infected children of 203, a total of 101 are male while 102 are female stressing that, the number of infected children between 0-1 years is about 72 with almost equal burden between male and female.
Kamara said HIV/AIDS related deaths among the age group 0-4 years is highest than in all other age groups, which is why programs are targeting 100% of all pregnant women to be tested, and when found positive are followed up with appropriate PMTCT services including delivery and child care in the form of Early Infant Diagnosis and paediatric care.
Despite the fact that new infections among 0-14 years is declining in the country since 2013, the story is not the same for people in the age bracket of 15-49 years.
MK/6/12/17
Awoko Thursday, December 07, 2017.

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