The keynote Speaker for this year’s world AIDS Day in Liberia has told the National AIDS Commission and other government institutions responding to HIV and AIDS to put people living with the HIV at the forefront of interventions in curtailing the spread of the virus.
Madam Martha Morgan, a woman living with HIV said ensuring a Liberia free of HIV will require the recognition of people living with the virus to play a leading role, and not to be seated at the back.
Speaking Monday in Buchanan, Grand Bassa during the official observance of this year’s World AIDS Day, Martha Morgan said for too long people living with HIV in Liberia had sat in the back and witnessed programs that concern them being executed without their participation.
Madam Morgan praised the National AIDS Commission for inviting people living with HIV to some of its programs, but said wants the commission to go beyond just extending invitation and empowers them to take on some leading role in the National HIV response.
“I believe that nothing should be for us without us. This would encourage testing, treatment adherence and reduce stigma through a peer to peer awareness and educating the general public about the danger of HIV and the need to take preventive measures,” she said.
She said “I am pleased to be selected as keynote Speaker for this year’s World AIDS Day. To me, this is a surprise because I am not aware that it has ever happened since we started observing World AIDS Day in Liberia. This speaks to innovation and the commitment of the National AIDS Commission to involve everyone in addressing the complicated nature of the HIV and AIDS Epidemic”.
Madam Martha is the regional Coordinator for the Liberia Women Empowerment Network (LIWEN), a member organization of the Liberia Network of Persons Living with HIV (LIBNEP+).
Commenting on this year’s observance under the Global Theme: “Communities Make the Difference” and National Theme: “Step In, Let’s Make the Difference Together” she said her selection as a person living with HIV speaks to how ready Liberia is becoming to achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020, and to end AIDS by 2030.
Madam Morgan: “This has been the Network of Persons Living with HIV suggestion to the National AIDS Commission and partners to ensure an inclusive collaboration in the National response by closely involving people directly infected with the virus”.
She said, “I believe that moving forward to achieving the 90-90-90 targets which will lead to ending AIDS by 2030 requires attention on testing people living with HIV, placing people on treatment and providing healthy life for people through a suppressed viral load”.
She said it is a glaring fact that efforts to achieving the 2020 and 2030 targets must first recognize, involve and empower people living with HIV in playing a leading role in the national HIV response to encourage people infected to adhere to treatment.
According to her, “a woman or man living with HIV is in the better position to encourage his or peer to accept an HIV positive status as compared to someone who is not in the same shoe”.
“Today, 39,144 persons are living with HIV and nearly 1,900 people get infected with the HIV virus in Liberia yearly-this is no good news for a country with a little population, but I believe we can solve this problem with a combined effort and shared responsibilities,” she said.
She informed the gathering that HIV is not only high in Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi) now, but it is fast spreading across the country, noting that those concerned need to act now together in leaving no one behind.
“No one should be left behind; this is not one person’s fight- if we work together we will achieve a greater goal, but if we work in isolation of each other, we will not achieve, and this failure will be Liberia’s failure,” Madam Morgan said.
She told the gather attended by local international partners in the HIV response that the National Theme: “Step In, Let’s Make the Difference Together” came at the right time, and that everyone should make use of the theme in their different communities for one common goal, which is make Liberia an AIDS free society.
She appealed to government to address the issues of lost to Follow Up of people tested positive, empowerment of people living with HIV and experiencing stigma and discrimination daily and reactivate support groups being used for people living with HIV across the country to seek each other welfare.