World Aids Day is commemorated on 1 of December each year. In Geneva on the 27 November 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations to help countries reach the 8.1 million people living with HIV who are yet to be diagnosed, and who are therefore unable to obtain lifesaving treatment. The WHO guidelines were released ahead of World AIDS Day and the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA2019) which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda 2-7 December 2019. “The face of the HIV epidemic has changed dramatically over the past decade,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of WHO. “More people are receiving treatment than ever before, but too many are still not getting the help they need because they have not been diagnosed.” HIV testing is key to ensuring people are diagnosed early and start treatment. Good testing services also ensure that people who test HIV negative are linked to appropriate, effective prevention services. This will help reduce the 1.7 million new HIV infections occurring every year. Today, three in 4 of all people with HIV live in the African Region. According to the old data used by the HIV/AIDS Secretariat, since 2013, the HIV prevalence rate in Sierra Leone is 1.5%. This number has been bandied about for years and recently, two new international reports have been published shedding new light of the pandemic numbers in Sierra Leone.
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The Chinese CDC published a scientific report in March 2019 in The Infectious Diseases of Poverty medical journal. The study, “HIV prevalence in suspected Ebola cases during 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone” was done at the Chinese Hospital in Jui. Out of the 678 negative cases of Ebola tested, the HIV prevalence among those tested was 17.6%. The report also showed that from March to July 2015, of the suspected Ebola Viral Disease EVD patients tested 22.5% were HIV positive reaching to an all-time high in May 2015 of 36% prevalence. According to the Chinese study, the HIV prevalence among the population from 15–49 years is 24.6%, and up to 31.8% in other age ranges. Dr. Sulaiman Lakkoh and Emmanuel Farima, also published a report in the Biomedical Central in 2019, from clinical data at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown. The report, “Low partner testing in high prevalence setting in Freetown,” showed the HIV prevalence of all tested clients was 24.3%. The prevalence rate of HIV among partners of HIV positive people is 52.9%. The report stated the general prevalence rate of HIV stands at 25.2%. For those between 36-49 years the prevalence rate is 31%, and for people between 25–35 years it is 27.5%. For the youth population between 16–25 years the prevalence rate is 17.6% in Freetown. These shocking numbers of HIV prevalence in Sierra Leone are based on the most recent scientific, medical reports published by reputable, accredited doctors and researchers. At the end of 2018, there were 36.7 million people with HIV worldwide. Of these, 79% had been diagnosed, 62% were on treatment, and 53% had reduced their HIV levels through sustained treatment, to the point at which they have substantially reduced risk of transmitting HIV. “At the end of 2018, an estimated 79% of people living with HIV knew their status. An estimated 23.3 million (or 62% of all) people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with no risk of infecting others. Between 2000 and 2018, new HIV infections fell by 37% and HIV-related deaths fell by 45%, with 13.6 million lives saved due to ART.
By David Thoronka
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