The country Representative of UNFPA, Mr. Barnabas Yisa, has said that men and women of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) are among the groups of workers most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in the country.
Mr. Yisa, who was speaking yesterday at the launching of the SLP HIV/AIDS Policy at the senior police officers mess in Kingtom, said, “It is now well established that in most developing countries, the Police, and generally the uniformed personnel, are five times more likely than members of the population to contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV.”
He added that HIV/AIDS is a debilitating workplace health hazard for the Police Force, and any effort to support the limited spread of HIV will enhance the health and welfare of men and women of the force.
Mr. Yisa stated that the launching of the SLP policy is a practical testimony to this effort by UNFPA, adding that “we work with SLP because the police deliver results.”
He further said that “the pivotal role of the SLP in ensuring sustainable peace and development since the civil war ended in 2002 cannot be overemphasized.”
By the nature of the work SLP carry out and the environment in which they work, officers are often exposed to the risk of HIV/AIDS, intimated the Rep, further noting that these issues are major concerns articulated in the SLP HIV/AIDS Policy, and the UNFPA is proud to associate with the policy.
He concluded that his organization is committed to work in partnership with the Government, especially the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), civil society, the media, private sector, local communities and the agency in the UN family as well as development partners, in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone.
In his keynote address and launching of the Policy, the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Internal Affairs Raymond Kabia pointed out that, his ministry put a lot of emphasis on the Police because they are in the frontline of defense in the country.
He added that the force is at strength of 12,000 Police Officers serving a number exceeding millions of people, adding that by a year or two the number of officers will increase to 15,000.
“We are very particular about the health of Police Officers,” Mr. Kabia said.
The Deputy Minister stressed that his ministry and the Government needs to do more than before for the Police hospital in Kingtom. “The health of the Police is our number one priority and therefore we must put more efforts on health,” he added. “The Policy should serve as a bible to all 12,000 Police Officers in the country.”
Mr. Kabia said that the Policy, if implemented by the SLP, will serve as a way of reducing the virus in the country. “Implementation,” he said, “is a sickness in Sierra Leone. Follow-up of programmes and maintenance are also the worst things lacking in the country.” He advised all Police officers to know their HIV/AIDS status before it is too late.
The Deputy Director of NAS Abdulrahman Chernor Sesay said that HIV/AIDS is a workplace issue because over 70 percent of the people affected are within the workplace.
“NAS will continue to provide support to ensure that we move in the right direction in combating the virus,” Mr. Sesay said.
Assistant Inspector General of Police Chris Charlie said that the policy will roll over to the Police Training School, which will capture new recruits in the force.
The Programme Officer of NEPTHIS, Harry Alpha, said their organization provides care to those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS.