Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com
Vice President Joseph Boakai recently launched the « know your status campaign » in collaboration with the National AIDS Commission. The exercise is part of efforts to decrease the prevalence of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The campaign aimed at getting people to know their HIV status through counseling and testing, is expected to reach 280,000 people in Montserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa, the three counties with the highest prevalence rates.
The counseling and testing of people will be conducted at most health centers, clinics and hospitals free of charge.
After launching the campaign in the borough of New Kru Town last weekend, VP Boakai spoke of the significance of the campaign, not only for the national response to HIV/AIDS, but also to the national healthcare delivery system.
He said HIV/AIDS has continued to be a major public health issue claiming the lives of more than 90,000 people over the last two decades.
« The HIV counselling and testing campaign is also a major milestone for Liberia in achieving the UNAIDS fast track or 90-90-90 targets, which aims to ensure that by the year 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their status, » Boakai said.
He said despite the scars of the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which diverted resources and attention from HIV response, « We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that the epidemic is over but keep active surveillance, provide quality care, treatment and support services. »
He urged Liberians to make maximum use of laboratory diagnostic surveillance systems as the virus remains one of the leading causes of death among young people.
VP Boakai said stigma and discrimination have never proven to stop the spread of HIV, instead they remain the major social factors fueling the spread of the virus by driving those affected into concealing their status and shunning the much-needed treatments.
For that, he called for more support in responding to the virus so that Liberia would reach the target of becoming AIDS free by 2030, consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Boakai vowed to rally the support of families, communities, and religious leaders not to stigmatize and pull away from their friends or relatives diagnosed with HIV.