The official celebration of the day was held in Ganta, Nimba County under the global theme: “Hands up for HIV Prevention and national theme: “Ending AIDS in Liberia: Leaving No One Behind.”
World AIDS Day is celebrated on the 1stof December each year to provide an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died of AIDS.
The day reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
AIDS has killed more than 35 million people around the world since its discovery in 1981 in the United States of America, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
In Liberia, more than 90,000 persons have lost their lives to the disease since it was discovered in 1986, with an estimated 33,000 said to be infected.
According to the Liberia Demography Health Survey (LDHS) between 2007 and 2013, the HIV prevalence in the general population aged 15-49 in Liberia increased from 1.5 to 2.1 percent.
The report said HIV prevalence in urban (city) areas is put at 2.6 percent with accounting for 3.2 percent, while rural (interior) areas account for 0.8 percent.
The report also revealed that HIV prevalence among women increased from 1.8 percent in 2007 to 2.4 percent in 2013, while men account for 1.8 percent in 2007 to 1.9 in 2013.
Also, the Integrated Biological and Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) among most at risk populations to determine the prevalence of HIV and syphilis, including risk behaviors, perceptions and attitudes that was conducted in 2013 states that HIV prevalence was dramatically high among men who have sex with men (MSM).
They are closely followed by Female Sex Workers (FSW) and Uniform services personnel.
Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) told Liberians especially young people to observe their behaviors and make use of the ongoing Voluntary HIV Testing Counseling campaign to know their status.
Dr. Camanor said the sooner one gets to know his/her HIV status whether negative or negative will provide a better solution.
“If you are tested negative you will be reminded of practicing save behavior, if tested positive you will be in the better position because you will be placed on treatment to prolong your life and eventually you will live long and may not transmit HIV to an uninfected person,” Dr. Camaor said.
“I unite with the world today to call on you to get tested and know your HIV and AIDS status. If you do, you are not only helping to stop HIV spread but saving the lives of generations,” he said.
Dr. Betru Tekle Woldesemayat, Country Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV AIDS (UNAIDS), said a united fight is required if Liberia must be on par with the world in mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS.
Dr. Woldesemayat who read the World AIDS Day message on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed UNAIDS’ commitment of standing solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and remembered the 35 million who have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.
“The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track—more than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment and country after country is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child,” Dr. Woldesemayat said.
He noted that the war against the AIDS epidemic is gradually being won, but progress is not been seen everywhere, observing that the number of new HIV infections is not declining among adults, with young women particularly at risk of becoming infected with HIV.
According to the UNAIDS-Liberia Country Director, the time has come for collaborative effort to be embraced citizens in their respective countries to intensify behavioral change campaign.
World Health Organization Regional Director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti urged African Countries to use the World AIDS Day commemoration to show support for people living with HIV and remember those who died.
Dr. Moeti said issues like access and the right to health, zero discrimination, testing and condoms in relation to specific groups such as adolescent girl and young women and key populations must be taken seriously in the strategy of HIV prevention.