Liberia: Christian Leaders Brainstorm On Means of Curbing HIV/AIDS, Stigma in Liberia

FrontPageAfrica, Monrovia – As part of the activities marking the celebration of this year’s World AIDS Day, Christian leaders who are members of the Liberia Council of Churches with support from the National AIDS Commission (NAC) and partners have concluded a day interactive discussion on ways forward for preventing the spread of HIV&AIDS, as well as, reducing stigma and discrimination in the country.

The conference took placed on November 26, 2013 at the Liberia Council of Churches Headquarters on the 15th Street, Sinkor.

The gathering which brought together over 19 Christians’ Denominations with 42 participants in attendance, discussions were focused on issues ranging from the role of the religious community in the National HIV&AIDS Response; and highlights of the 2007 Liberia’s Demography Health Survey which provided detail account on the number of people living with HIV (PLHVI) and key populations that need to be targeted with treatment, care and support, among other things stipulated in the survey.

Also, discussions were focused on the impact of HIV&AIDS on the society and people living with HIV, the Laws that prohibit Stigma and Discrimination which include provision of willful transmission of HIV. In addition, church leaders were enlightened on what the laws exactly say about confidentiality/keeping people living with HIV information secret.

Organizers of the meeting noted that the discussion held among church leaders will help inform national partners on how to address its share of global target on HIV&AIDS.

It is the hope of the United Nations that by year, 2015, the world should achieve its three zeros targets: “Zero New HIV&AIDS Infections, Zero Stigma and Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” Interestingly, to this end, despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care supported in many regions including Liberia, HIV&AIDS continue to post serious threat to development.

Making a PowerPoint presentation, the National AIDS Commission’s Commissioner on partnership, Madam Juanita Ramirez said HIV&AID are present in Liberia and are undermining the country’s development priorities; noting that a collective effort is required to prevent its spread in the country.

She pointed out that global statistics show that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007.

Speaking earlier during the religious leader’s gathering, the Vice President of the Council of Churches (LCC), Archbishop John B. Kroma called on national partners to prioritized working with the religious community and decentralizes programs on HIV&AIDS to involve the media which he termed as the chief means of communication globally.

He added that the religious community especially, the church in Liberia has being playing a pivotal role in response of HIV&AIDS but there’s more needed to be done.

According to him, the government and partners need to see the Church as a vehicle to eliminate whatsoever health problem confronting the country including HIV&AIDS, “considering that we have the strength to do so. We already have the people to talk to. We have the young population, the older ones and moreover, it will interest you to know that most of our legislators are from a church and are member of churches. We have the nurses who are also members of our churches. In one word we have those you already one to speak to, all we need now is support.”

For her part, the National HIV&AIDS Coordinator of LCC, Madam Christine O. Dolo expressed optimism that if national partners involved the religious community in its interventions to the national AIDS response, much can be achievable in a shorter possible time of reducing and preventing the spread of HIV; Stigma and Discrimination in Liberia.

According to her, there are strong possibilities that vast majority of the nation’s population can acquire HIV&AIDS education, if bishops, pastors and other church leaders get involved by including HIV&AIDS messages in their regular sermons.

In the words of Madam Dolo: “The Church in Liberia has always been involved in the prevention of HIV. The only thing that I can’t say here is, we have been persistent. In my view, we have not been consistent due to lack of partners to support us.

“I know how people listen to their religious leaders. We hear about the nurses who are reportedly not keeping confidential information on people living with HIV, our pastors can tell them how wrong it is to do so. We could talk to the lawmakers, agriculturalists, educators, and motorcycles that are part of our many congregations. This is why the religious community must be support.”

Meanwhile, the global theme for this year’s WAD is: “Getting to Zero”; with its national Theme: “Eliminating HIV Transmission from Mother to Child through compassion in Liberia.”

A calendar release by the National AIDS Commission shows that in continuation of the implementation of activities of World AIDS Day, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) hold a news conference where representatives from the National AIDS Commission, National AIDS Control Program and other stakeholders will discuss World AIDS Day and the national HIV and AIDS response.

The calendar further stated that on Friday, November 29 a Muslim Worship will be conducted at the 17th street Mosque in Sinkor by the Union of Muslims Association of Bomi and Cape Mount Counties (UMABCO) to involve all citizens irrespective of religious background in the national response. While on Saturday, November 30, a parade will commence at the Ministry of Health in Congo Town to the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville for a tournament under the theme: “Kick HIV&AIDS out of Liberia through sports,” featuring the Senior Professionals and the Liberian Asian based players.

The calendar is quoted as saying, the week-long activities will be climaxed on Sunday, December 1, 2013 with the official indoor program at the Winners’ Chapel in Congo Town; noting that the program will be held in the evening.

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