The minister of health, Abator Thomas, yesterday revealed that in 1987 Sierra Leone started with only one known case but now there were 48, 000 Sierra Leoneans living with the HIV virus.
She made this statement during a pre-legislation sensitization held in parliament about the “prevention and control of HIV and AIDS 2007 bill,” which is being championed by Society of Women against AIDS in Sierra Leone (SWAASL).
The minister encouraged parliamentarians to pass the bill as it would help to fight the spread of HIV.
Also urging MPs to pass the bill when it would come up in parliament by Friday this week, the coordinator for People Living With AIDS (PLWHA) pointed out that many people had serious misconception about AIDS, “many people tag PLWHAs as immoral and promiscuous and as a result are being stigmatized.”
He noted that the bill, if passed, would protect these people from stigmatization and discrimination, noting also that if stigmatization was curtailed then many people would come out and declare their status which would to a large extent help in the prevention of HIV.
The deputy Speaker of parliament, who also made a statement, revealed that she was suffering from typhoid but that she was not ashamed of telling people or being castigated for it.
She pointed out that this should be the case with people living with HIV only if they would not be stigmatized.
The deputy Speaker acknowledged that, “It is essential that we promulgate this law and also educate people on their rights and responsibilities”.
The WHO country director, who is the chairman of the UN Theme Group on AIDS, urged that Sierra Leone should take the AIDS epidemic seriously.
She noted that Zimbabwe for example, her country, was overwhelmed with the epidemic just because they refused to accept that AIDS was real and reneged on their duty to fight the scourge even when their prevalent rate was low.
She warned that,”as Sierra Leone’s prevalent rate is low at the moment the country should not sleep on its oars because the highest figures in countries started with a zero prevalent rate”.
The deputy director of the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), Abdul Rahman Sesay, accepted that “HIV is on the increase in Sierra Leone and there is need to put all the structures in place to curb the epidemic and the AIDS bill is such a one.”