The Director for the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat in Sierra Leone has disclosed that the country has made tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS in recent years. Dr Brima Kargbo spoke to Newstime Africa on Thursday September 24th at his Kingharman Road office west of the country’s capital, Freetown. The fight against HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone has been in progress since the Secretariat was established few years ago by the Sierra Leone government.
According to Dr Kargbo, they have been able to stabilize the epidemic due to the support they have been getting from government and the donor community and revealed that at present only 1.49% of the country’s population has HIV/AIDS.
A 2008 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey indicates that, 1.7% of women and 1.2% of men are HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence is higher among women than men in urban areas than in rural areas.
The survey indicates that women become infected at younger ages than men and that prevalence for both women and men increases with age until it peaks at age 30-34 for women (2.4%) and at age 45-49 for men (2.1%). The survey shows that there is 0.8% prevalence of HIV in the southern region, 1.2% in the northern region, 1.4% in the east and 2.9% in the Western Area.
Speaking on the strides the country has made in recent time, Dr Kargbo stated that 84.3% of people survive a year after treatment and that 91% of children born by parents affected are negative. Speaking further, Dr Brima Kargbo said, ‘there has been an increase in the number of treatment centers from 5 in 2005 to 111 at present and that “a total of 5,714 people are currently on treatment for the epidemic ‘The use of condom has also increased tremendously…it has increased from 13% to 29% and this is an encouraging thing” Dr Kargbo said.
Asked to comment on the knowledge of HIV prevention among people, he said less than half of women know each of the three major methods of preventing HIV transmission and that men are slightly more knowledgeable, with more than two-thirds of men knowing that limiting sex to one uninfected partner reduces the risk of getting HIV.
The success of most state institutions often depends on the political will from the political class. According to Dr Kargbo, “the political will from the office of the president within the last two years has been robust’. He said the President Dr Ernest Koroma has attended several functions on HIV/AID. ‘Even the financial support has been encouraging as it has been increased from government counterpart”.
The HIV/AIDS Secretariat like most institutions has been faced with several challenges but according to the Director, “funding is not the most critical challenge, but that of changing the perception of people on the existence of the epidemic…” He said people still have the perception that the disease is not in existence and that this has, largely been as a result of cultural and religious beliefs.
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