World AIDS Day has been commemorated on 1 December since 1988 and was the 1st global health day.
On December 1st in Monrovia, as people went about their economic activities during the normal lunch rush hour in the bustling old town of Monrovia, the national HIV community was having its World AIDS Day Commemoration. Its purpose is to unite the world in the fight against HIV, show solidarity for people living with HIV, and commemorate those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. This national commemoration in Liberia was different; deliberately held in a location with a high concentration of people to raise awareness on HIV, provide IEC material, HIV testing and counselling services and distribute condoms.
“Thanks to the global AIDS community, ARVS are now available, and the drugs are getting better all the time. Now we have 74% of our people living with HIV knowing their status, and 89% of them are on antiretroviral therapy with 65% virally suppressed. That is good progress, but we still need to do more”, Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said in her remarks. “Stigma and discrimination faced by people living with and affected by HIV is still a very concerning issue” she continued. “There is no better time than now for this year’s global Theme: End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics” and national Theme: “Equal Opportunity for all...let’s end AIDS in Liberia, because we are obligated to work collectively to defeat HIV-related stigma and discrimination in all sectors of our country”, remarked Ms Theodosia Kolee, Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission.
“AIDS remains a pandemic, the red light is flashing and only by moving fast to end the inequalities that drive the pandemic can we overcome it” message by the UNAIDS Executive Director, Ms Winnie Byanyima, read by the UNAIDS Country Director for Liberia, Ms Pepukai Chikukwa. “Without the inequality-fighting approach we need to end AIDS, the world would also struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic and would remain unprepared for the pandemics of the future. That would be profoundly dangerous for us all” the message continued.
The overriding theme throughout commemoration in Liberia were the persistent inequalities, stigma, and discrimination, driving new HIV infections and making it difficult to access services for people who need them the most. The Minister of Health went on to commit to ending provision of health services in a discriminatory, stigmatizing, non-private and non-confidential manner by health workers, and requested members of the public to report such behaviors to the Ministry.
As one lane in Upper Board Steet in Monrovia remained closed; with the very audible speakers from the commemoration, the message by the UNAIDS Executive Director concluded “Every minute that passes, we are losing a precious life to AIDS. We don’t have time”.
Gradiah Walker Bou Hussein
Associate Development Coordination Officer
Programme Communications & Advocacy