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NEWS : Local News  

In Sierra Leone, First Lady Joins Thousands To Commemorate World AIDS Day
By Augustine Samba
Dec 2, 2009, 17:22
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The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma and the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Kadija Sam Sumana on Tuesday 1st December 2009, joined thousands of important stakeholders and ordinary people to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day.

This year’s commemoration had two themes. The local theme was: ‘Help Protect Your Baby. Get Tested for HIV’; whilst the international theme was: ‘Universal Access to Prevention, Care; Access and Support’

Business Coalition in SL

The ceremony which took place at Victoria Park in central Freetown, attracted stakeholders including representatives from United Nations agencies, Concern Worldwide, National AIDS Secretariat, Freetown City Council (FCC), UNAIDS, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and several business institutions, schools, community-based organizations and a host of other participants.

In her statement, the First Lady, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma said the fight against the dreaded disease requires a concerted effort. She disclosed that the disease also requires a high profile national and international campaign that involves all stakeholders including the government, the international communities, individuals, communities and everybody.

 
First Lady and Mayor at the High Table

She described the day as a remarkable one and appealed to all and sundry to hold it in very high esteem, as it is the only day set aside to educate, sensitize and bring awareness to people of all nations all over the world about the dangers of the most dreaded disease that can destroy a whole nation similar to the kind of destruction meted on people by wars. She went on to say that since 1988, many people have died prematurely because of the disease, and that the number of patients living and dying from it continues to rise all over the world.

She maintained that, the government of Sierra Leone through NAS has been able to collaborate with other stakeholders to launch a robust campaign against HIV/AIDS. She therefore encouraged everybody including pregnant women and their partners to go in for the free HIV test. She further disclosed that over 90 sites have been created by NAS for pregnant women to go and receive ante-natal care apart from professional care and advise that would prevent mother to child transmission of the disease.

Secondary school pupils

On her part, wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Kadija Sam Sumana said this year’s commemoration is based on human rights and babies. She disclosed that the First Lady has been so courageous to lead the campaign for better and safer maternal and infant health care delivery nation-wide. She appealed to all stakeholders to encourage friends; relatives among others to be tested in order to prevent the disease and not to discriminate against those who are infected with the disease..

In a statement delivered by UN Theme Group Representative, Ms. Raditzai Ndouvlu, quoted UN Secretary General who had once stated that there are good signs of progress in reversing the AIDS epidemic in some countries. She appealed to all to uphold their commitment to reach the universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010; and maintained that, the goal can be achieved if the right of all humans are respected and realized, whilst noting that people should not be discriminated against and that there should not be violence against women and girls.

Guests at Victoria Park

Director of National AIDS Secretariat, Dr. Brima Kargbo recalled that the disease was first discovered in Sierra Leone in 1987 with just one patient. He said that by 2005, the number increased to 48,000 people and that there has since been additional cases even as the fight against the disease intensifies in the country. He disclosed that this year’s national theme is very outstanding and remarkable. He also told his audience that NAS has succeeded in setting up three hundred and eight-six testing sites, three hundred and forty prevention of mother to child transmission sites and one hundred and eleven treatment sites in Sierra Leone.

The Mayor of Freetown Municipality, Herbert George Williams, and the Secretary General of the Network of HIV Positive in Sierra Leone, Rev.Jacob Pessima also made brief remarks.

Other activities including a simultaneous march-past from Up-Gun to Victoria Park and from the National Stadium to the Victoria Park, a musical performance, film shows and a comedy performance all with the objective of spreading awareness HIV/AIDS formed part of the commemoration.


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