AHF Commemorates World Aids Day

Aids Health Care Foundation (AHF) together with the child-friendly organization HAPPY KIDS & Adolescents has organized a one-day Inter-School Clubs debate and Fun Fair to commemorate World Aids Day

With the theme, “Equalized Achieving Equality to End HIV’’, the event was held at NETHIPS Headquarters along the Regent/Grafton highway where school children from various schools including teachers and parents converged to witness the debate session and fun fair.

Second year Political Science student, Philippa Thorlie, served as chair for the occasion, as duty bearers in HIV/AIDS response are now giving space to adolescents and young people to have their say in all aspects of decision making towards HIV /AIDS response in the country.

UN AIDS Country Director, Issac Ahomesah, was guest of honour broke protocol and decided to have an interactive session with the children as his keynote address. He noted that because science has improved there should be no reason people should succumb to HIV at an early stage and called on the children to show more concern to what is affecting their right to life and a bright future.

He gave statistics saying that despite only 1.7% of people are living with HIV in the country, 2.2% of that number are women and 1.1 are men citing that women are more vulnerable to multiple sex partners. He advised the children to abstain from early sex as the future is unknown so they have to protect their present. Ahomesah appealed to the young girls not to put their future at stake for the lust of material things and contract HIV.

The UN AIDS Country Director furthered that in Sierra Leone many more girls marry before their 18th birthday and most are being married into a polygamous family, which means chances of contacting HIV is high and that is the reason Government should be stern and ensure equality for both boys and girls to reach their full potential.

Issac Ahomesah assured the organizers that the UN AIDS Country Office will continue to support with programmes that would enhance the living standards of people living with HIV and also help in advocacy to improve on drug roll-out in all health facilities, across the country, in order to protect PLHIV and pregnant women not to pass the virus to unborn children.

AHF Representative, Esther Teh in a brief statement said this year’s theme coincides with the AHF’s slogan which is: It’s not over, till it’s over, citing that fighting HIV is a collective effort bringing everyone on board.

She added that most adults living with HIV are on treatment despite many more do not know their status, and most of the children living with the virus are suffering because only half of the number infected are on treatment, and that, she said, is unacceptable.  Madam Teh called on the Ministry of Health and Partners to ensure that enough drugs are available in stock to service clients in order to avoid drug stock out.

The Country Director of Care International, Yaikah Joof maintained that every year World Aids Day is commemorated and despite steps achieved, she said much more needs to be achieved and this can only happen when those affected are also at the centre stage of the process to eliminate the virus which continues to claim the lives of many, especially new born babies. She noted that adolescents and young people need to speak up and discuss with duty bearers what they want to see happen in the area of HIV prevention. Madam Joof said continuous advocacy to support treatment and care without discrimination is very important in order not to lose the fight to HIV/AIDS.

She welcomed the initiative of an Inter-school club debate which will further widen the knowledge of pupils on HIV/AIDS and find ways of how they will work with communities to end stigma among family and friends.

Idrissa Songo the National Coordinator of NETHIPS, the umbrella body of all Organizations providing HIV care and service noted that many a time he is heart broken by the fact that in spite of gains made in science to produce single drug therapy to fight the virus, it is like the world is losing the fight to end  HIV, but the theme for this year to end inequality and equalize to end the preventable disease has given more hope that indeed if the right steps are taken, HIV will be eliminated by 2030.

Testing Services Coordinator at the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), Victoria Kamara was delighted to be part of another commemoration involving the children who are the bulk of the country’s youthful population citing that young people need to know everything  they should know about HIV, especially voluntary testing which is the first stage for one to know his or her HIV status, before next steps will be taken to treatment, support and care. She added that when people do voluntary testing and know their status new infection rate will be reduced. Madam Kamara called on the pupils to adhere to the ABCs of HIV and if they should live a better and productive life in future, young people must opt for abstinence, a collective effort by parents and peers.

Executive Director, HAPPY KIDS &Adolescents, Mariama Marco-Conteh said every year the world commemorates the day, but the world continues to lose more people especially new born and under five to the preventable disease as a result of drug stock out which is no excuse for any Government that cares about the health and well-being of its people. She noted that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation should start penalizing those responsible to roll-out ART’s to the various facilities across the country for failing to ensure that drugs reach facilities on time at all times to avoid stock out, the children not to miss school and when they get to a facility for drug replenishment, there is a stock out and have no alternative but to take septrin, until drug is available, which she described as inhumane.

Drama depicting the harmful effects of HIV as well as other dangerous drugs which expose people to risk of contracting HIV formed the high point, including the distribution of menstrual and hygiene kits to all 100 boys and girls during the event.







Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here