The Nova Scotia Sierra Leone programme an institution set up for voluntary confidential counselling and testing for HIV/AIDs has continued its work in the eastern region of the conntry.
The head of the team Canadian born Richard Maclachlan said the disease HIV/AIDS though very slow to develop yet is very stuborn and can easily kill. He said the prevalence of the disease in some African countries has grown so rapidly that organisations and government need to work hand in hand to eradicate the disease.
Mr. Maclachlan said the programme which started four years ago in Sierra Leone where in many students were identified, trained and well equipped so that they could inturn be serviceable and helpful to others in the community they find themselves. He said the aim of his team was to target vulnerable groups such as teenagers, market women, drivers and commercial sex workers. In the northern district town of Makeni where the exercise initially started, Professor Maclachlan said he was impressed, as the rate of the disease was coming down gradually though he could not respond to questions demanding figures for the affected and non-affected. He however ruled out testing children who are under the age of sixteen.
When asked how best his team could afford to provide drugs for patients, Professor Maclachlan said the government of Sierra Leone had already made available sufficient drugs and the treatment is free of cost. He however encouraged spotted victims to go to the identified medical centres where retroviral drugs will be administered freely.
In Kono district where the team was fortunate to get a high turnout, the National Programme Manager said the district is a diamondferous area and that the existence of the disease is undoubtedly prominent amongst its growing populace. He said two years back the team visited Kono and their focus was on learning institutions. Schools such as Jaiama Secondary School,Yengema Secondary School, Koidu Girls Secondary, were some of the institutions where counselling and testing was carried out. “But this time we are going to pay attention specifically to occupational institutions” he said.
The district Co-ordinator for HIV/AIDS testing and Counselling in Kono said the Nova Scotia Programme is a reliable institution and will remain confidential to all results. Mr. Sylvester Samba said the government hospital branch in Kono has all the facilities available for HIV/AIDS victims. He also confirmed that many drugs had been purchased but it will never be useful until someone is identified as a victim. He said few years back most of the drugs were destroyed after a long time of storage due to the refusal of patients to show up for treatment.
However, two volunteers who presented themselves for testing were proved to be negative. Tamba Fanday alias Superman said he has two wives and seven children. He said it was a shock when the Co-ordinator told him that he was HIV/AIDS free. He said most of the time women are the prostitutes, as they do not stick to one partner. Mr. Fanday praised his wives for being faithful in the relationship.
He said he would encourage them to come forward for testing.
Nova Scotia Sierra Leone is a Canadian sponsored programme with its head office based in Freetown. So far, its next leg of tour will be Kailahun and Kenema where similar events pertaining to counselling and testing will continue.
By Jon-Bu in Kono