World AIDS Day 2018: Do Your HIV Test

WAD 2018 Celebrants
WAD 2018 Celebrants
Photo Credit: Y. Solomon W. Watkins

'Do your HIV test' was a key message passed on by many who turned oiut in their numbers to commemorate the 2018 World AIDS Day in Liberia. 

 

World AIDS Day is that time of the year when the world intensifies awareness to galvanize resources toward the fight against HIV.

 

Wearing of red ribbon is also customarily trendy among people globally. The ribbon is a show of solidarity and support for those living with HIV, which affected 36.9 million people globally in 2017. The ribbon has drawn people's eyes, call attention to HIV, its causes and risks and how it can damage the immune system without proper care.

 

1 December 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS Day, a pioneering global campaign first initiated by WHO in 1988 which all the UN member states have observed.

 

Liberia being no exception, celebrated this year’s World AIDS Day under the global theme: “Know your status” with the national theme: “Do your HIV test,” with intention to promote singular campaign for everyone to undergo medical testing to discover if the virus exists in them and to put those diagnosed positive on the right treatment and care and to provide the right support services.

 

As per data released by the National AIDS Commission (NAC) of Liberia in 2018, Liberia has the HIV prevalence of 2.1%.

 

Despite the increase in testing sites, the NAC on World AIDS Day 2018 emphasized that more needs to be done to end AIDS in Liberia.

 

Welcoming World AIDS Day 2018 Celebrants on 1 December at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium where the official program was held following a grand parade that took place in the principal streets of Monrovia, Mrs. Theodosia S. Kolee, Chairperson of NAC disclosed that Liberia has an estimated number of 40,000 persons living with HIV, down from 43,000 at the beginning of 2018. However, only 15,213 out of 40,000 know their HIV status. There are almost 21,000 HIV cases in the cities and communities that remain undiagnosed. Of those tested so far, 80% are women and 20% are men.

 

In her words: NAC and partners are designing interventions that will encourage more men to test and know their HIV status.

 

In terms of distribution of the HIV cases, 70% of the national HIV burden is in three counties (Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi), each with a prevalence of 2.7%. Additionally, men who have sex with men are most affected, with a prevalence of 19.8% according to the Integrated Bio Behavioral Surveillance Survey of 2013 (IBBSS 2013).

 

Hence, for the first 90, which has to do with knowing your HIV status, Liberia is at 38%, with stigma still a major issue in Liberia, compounded by the lack of confidentiality among care givers.

 

For the second 90, 13,110 persons are on medication, representing 36% of the diagnosed cases. Major weaknesses in the acquisition of this target are issues associated with an effective supply chain system.

 

Liberia is not doing so well with viral load testing and viral suppression monitoring. Only 2,305 persons out of the 13,110 on medication have had their viral load tested with 841 persons having undetectable viral load. This represents 36%. This poor performance is due to inadequate funding, repeated stock out of test kits, and the scarcity of viral load testing capabilities across the country.

 

Mrs. Kolee therefore called on all to do their HIV test. According to her, there is absolutely no chance of achieving global 90, 90, 90 targets if Liberians do not take the bold step to test and know their HIV status. “Testing is a win-win scenario for all of us. If you test negative (98% of Liberians are negative), you can live positively and prolong your life. If on the other hand, you test positive (like 2% of Liberians), you can go on medication and live a healthy and normal life, having children that are free from the virus and reducing the chances of infecting your sexual contacts.”