The National HIV/AIDS Coalition in Sierra Leone remembers the dead, who died of HIV/AIDS and rekindles hope for those living with the diseases by lighting up candles and processed in the main streets to the Young Women Christians Association hall in west end of the capital city Freetown.
This is part of several activities to mark the Global Aids Week of Action (GAWA) in Sierra Leone. Hundreds of people matched along the streets and filled the YWCA hall chanting the slogan, “One Week, One Voice”.
Lighting the memorial candle to remember those who have died of the disease and making the statement of hope for those who are living with the disease to a crowd of attendants, Harry Ben Alpha the Project Officer Network of HIV Positives said if only the society stops stigmatising HIV positives, he sees no reason why people should die of AIDS, as long as there is treatment, care and support.
“HIV/AIDS is in our homes, offices, academic institutions, religious institutions, communities and societies- we cannot frown at it; you are either infected or affected by the disease. We must accept the fact that it is a disease that we can manage and overcome”, Alpha lamented. He ended up by admonishing the infected and non- infected to live positively.
Several statements were made by different HIV/AIDS organisations to add voice to the universal call for more support to combat the disease. Sierra Leone is one of the least developed countries in the world today and the issue of HIV/AIDS is a very crucial one.
This is all the more reason why the country is taking active part in the Global Aids Week of Action (GAWA) calling on its government and relevant stakeholders to do more if the country and the world over should succeed in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Short skits on HIV/AIDS disclosure, treatment and adherence, stigma, behavioural change and treatment and support were performed as these are some of the challenges the society is grappling with now.
Despite the public proclamations, pledges and commitments made by our governments in Africa and the world over, yet the number of women, children, youth and adults who die of HIV/AIDS, keeps rising every year. It was revealed that AIDS continues to kill almost 6000 people each day and more than two out of three HIV positive people still lack access to treatment.
In 2005 world leaders made an historic promise on universal access, committing to: ‘developing and implementing a package for HIV prevention, treatment and care with the aim of coming as close as possible to the goal of universal access to treatment by 2010″. It is barely few months to this historic period (2010), the question now is, is the world, our government, the United Nations, HIV/AIDS organisations and Civil Societies doing enough to stop AIDS, help people living with the virus get access to treatment and support?
The Global AIDS Week of Action started on the 24 May, with a candle light procession and will continue till the 3Oth May 2009. The week will mark among other activities self assessment for stakeholders on HIV/AIDS response, Stepping up the HIV/AIDS campaign for youths and young adults, and HIV law review.
Prior to the week, the coalition started radio discussion programmes sensitising the public about GAWA and other important topics and issues affecting the work of HIV/AIDS in the country. The week will serve as an opportunity for activists around the country to stand together, generate political pressure and demand action from our political leaders, government and the world’s richest nations as there are just few days to the United Nations meeting in New York where nations will show the progress they have made to meet to their commitments on HIV and AIDS.
This solidarity is to send out a message to our government and the world that despite the commitments made by the UN and other world richest countries in 2005, yet the number of people dying of the disease is rising alarmingly and women and children are presently the hardest hit.