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Sierra Leone News: HIV response affected by “Prevention crisis” -UNAIDS

Complacency over HIV and AIDS has created a “prevention crisis” that is destabilizing efforts to reach the key 2020 target of fewer than 500,000 new HIV infections per year, the UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has said.
Describing his appeal as a “wake-up call” to the global community, Sidibé explained that “partial successes” in saving lives and stopping new infections some 1.4 million since 2010 had resulted in a lack of urgency among Member States.
“This is despite the fact that 180,000 children became infected with HIV last year, missing the 2018 target of protecting all youngsters from the virus.” Sidibé said.
The UNAIDS chief also noted that more than three decades into the HIV epidemic, three-in-five people starting HIV treatment are still not screened, tested or treated for tuberculosis – the biggest killer of people living with HIV.
In Sierra Leone, according to the Director General of the National HIV and AIDs Secretariat, Alhaji Dr. Momodu Sesay, over 24,000 people have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immuno Deficiency syndrome (AIDs), adding that over 45,000 people nationwide are living with the disease untested.
He added that people living with HIV who experience high levels of HIV-related stigma are more than twice as likely to delay enrolment into care as people who do not perceive HIV-related stigma.
“Stigma and discrimination is an affront to human rights and puts the lives of people living with HIV and key populations in danger. People living with HIV avoid going to clinics for fear of having their status disclosed or of suffering further stigma and discrimination based on their HIV status.” he stated.
“Sierra Leone recorded its first HIV/AIDs case in 1987 and the number has over the years grown rapidly and we now have over 24,000 cases. Over 45,000 people nationwide are living with the disease untested,” he said.
He disclosed that the national HIV prevalence rate is at 1.53 percent and that among the population, including male homosexuals 14.0 percent, female sex workers 4.7 percent, people who inject drugs 8.5 percent, prisoners 2.2 percent, transgender male to female 22.0 percent and transgender female to male is 4.3 percent.
“When people living with, or at risk of, HIV are discriminated against in health-care settings, they go underground. This seriously undermines our ability to reach people with HIV testing, treatment and prevention services,” said Sidibé.
It shows how stigma and discrimination is creating barriers to accessing HIV prevention, testing and treatment services and putting lives at risk.
One in four people living with HIV have experienced discrimination in health-care settings and one in three women living with HIV have experienced at least one form of discrimination in health-care settings related to their sexual and reproductive health.
There is an acute shortage of health-care workers and there is continuing stigma and discrimination says Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
“The number of AIDS-related deaths is the lowest this century,” he said introducing the agency’s latest report, noting that fewer than one million people per year now die from illnesses linked to AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Other successes include the fact that three out of four people living with HIV are now aware of their status – an important first step to getting medical help, the UNAIDS chief said.
In addition, a record 21.7 million people are on treatment – an increase of 2.3 million people since the end of 2016, according to the Global AIDS Update 2018.
Despite these apparent successes, globally, new HIV infections have declined by only 18 per cent in the past seven years, UNAIDS says, from 2.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2017.
At its peak in 1996, 3.4 million people were infected by the virus.
The reduction in new HIV infections has been strongest in the region most affected by HIV, Eastern and Southern Africa, where new HIV infections have fallen by 30 per cent since 2010.
By Sylvia
Wednesday July 25, 2018.

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