To observe this year’s World AIDS day, the HIV/AIDS Reporters’ Association (HARA) has alerted the public that HIV/AIDS is real and is on the increase.
Addressing journalists at a press conference at the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) in Freetown, NAS’ director Dr Brima Kargbo said the fight against the disease was not a one man or one institution issue but everybody’s.
He added that, “there is a need to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and the need to protect ourselves and our partners from the disease”.
Dr Kargbo urged journalists to increase the awareness wherever they might find themselves, adding further that giving correct and quality information about HIV/AIDS could reduce the spread of the disease.
Dr Felicitas Zaiwari from the World Health Organization (WHO) said despite progress had been made towards the acceleration of HIV prevention, access to HIV testing and counseling and prevention of mother-to-child transmission were still unacceptably low.
She noted that, “in our region we estimate that only 12% of adults know their HIV status while only 11% of pregnant women infected with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy”.
Access to treatment and care increased significantly in the last four years in Africa, from an average of 1% in 2003 to 30% in 2007, she disclosed.
She maintained that it was important to highlight that today 70% of people in need did not have access to these services.
Dr Zaiwari averred that efforts to scale up access to these life-prolonging medicines were hampered by important challenges such as low adherence to treatment regimen and the development of antiretroviral resistance strains.
She commended member states for having taken concrete steps to accelerate HIV prevention.
“We recognize that HIV prevention programmes in most parts of Africa remain fragmented, uncoordinated and poorly funded,” she averred.
She disclosed further that, “we realize that many programmes are being implemented without clear strategic focus based on sound knowledge of the local epidemic or the factors driving the epidemic”.
The president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Philip Neville, appealed to HARA to be a competent vehicle to propagate correct information to the people.
He also urged NAS’ director to use pictures that would reflect the ailment so that people could be aware and know that HIV was a killer disease.
Abubakarr Munu from HARA appealed to partners to be faithful to one another and use condoms as a way of stopping the spread of HIV.
He intimated that, “the disease is real and it has killed many people in the world whilst some have become orphans”.
Mr Munu assured that, “HARA will help to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS through its members’ daily publications and broadcasts.