By Henry Kargbo
The National HIV and AIDS Secretariat (NAS), in collaboration with its partners, has announced the postponement of the World AIDS Day commemoration, citing the recent incident that occurred in the country on November 26 as the reason for the rescheduling.
In a statement addressing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone, Abdul Ramadan C Sesay, the Director General of NAS, highlighted a concerning rate of 1:4 among individuals aged fifteen to forty-nine years. This data was derived from the Demographic and Health Survey currently in use until a prevalence study is conducted.
He emphasized the identification of key groups with higher prevalence rates than the national average of 1:9. Notably, among females, the rate is approximately 11.8%, particularly among those who abuse drugs through ingestion, with a rate of 3.2%.
The Director General further noted that females are disproportionately affected by HIV, as the prevalence rate for men is 1:1, while for females, it is 2.2%.
While acknowledging that the number of HIV patients on treatment exceeds sixty thousand, Director General Sesay clarified that this doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in the number of HIV cases. He expressed the goal of placing all seventy-six thousand Sierra Leoneans living with HIV on treatment within three months to achieve viral suppression by 2030, envisioning the end of HIV and AIDS.
Isaac Ahemesa, the UNAIDS Country Director, provided additional insights, stating that the global fight against HIV has been ongoing for over forty years since the first case was discovered between 1979 and 1980. With eighty-four million people affected and forty million having died from HIV, Ahemesa stressed that thirty million people are currently on treatment, while nine million remain unaware of their status or, if aware, are not receiving treatment.
Highlighting the alarming trend of eighty thousand HIV-related deaths last year, including one hundred and fifty children, Ahemesa emphasized that community involvement is crucial in combating the pandemic. He emphasized the theme for this year’s celebration, focusing on the role communities play in addressing HIV alongside people living with HIV globally.