The Centre for Encouraging and Care and Supporting HIV People (CECSHIP), in collaboration with the Kenema District Mobilization Committee, joined thousands in the world to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day on Saturday in Kenema.
The programme started with a quiz competition among Kenema youths at the Youth Sport Club at Mahei Vangahun Road, followed by a candlelight procession. Hundreds of youths displayed placards with HIV/AIDS messages.
In his opening remarks the chairman of the programme, Dr Philip A. Koroma, thanked all for their participation and encouraged everyone to go for voluntary testing so that they could be aware of their status which could help rein in the virus.
He disclosed that, “the testing and anti retroviral drugs are free and are available in most communities”. During the commemoration scores of HIV victims, both male and female in Kenema and from other parts of the country, openly came out for the first time and declared their statuses and explained their testimonies.
One of the victims George Massaquoi, who is the director of CECSHIP, said the programme was supported by UNAIDS and then called on his membership to explain their individual ordeals.
Mr Massaquoi called on his audience not to stigmatize people as “it might be you tomorrow”. He appealed to all affected with HIV to come out openly, as by so doing they would be helping the situation.
“HIV does not kill because I have been with it for years now,” he disclosed and appealed to donor agencies to pay more attention to victims. The key note address was delivered by Dr Khan of the government hospital in Kenema who called on everyone to cooperate with the medical people in dealing with the virus. The programme ended with a skit on HIV presented by people (PLWH) People Living with HIV.