Liberia’s National HIV Response Threatened -As CSOs Raises Alarm Over Weak Supply System Of ARTs
Liberian Civil Society Organizations Buttressing Government’s efforts in the National HIV response have alarmed that the lack of proper supply chain mechanism of antiretroviral drugs for People Living with HIV in Liberia is hampering the fight against the virus.
The global response has tasked each country to reach a three 90s target at 2020, which means 90% of persons living with HIV know their status, 90% of those tested positive get on treatment and 90% of Persons living with HIV have a suppressed viral load.
Additionally, Liberia’s commitment is also to achieve the universally desired goal of “Zero New HIV Infection, Zero AIDS-related Deaths, and Zero Discrimination.
To date, Liberia seems far on its 2020 mandate with the country being at 35% of the first 90 target of testing while the rest of the two 90% remains a major challenge.
According to a 2013 report of HIV response, 2.1% of Liberia’s population is living with the virus and huge portion of those numbers mainly consist of a marginalized group, traders, uniform personnel among others.
Currently, there are huge drug stuck out at several facilities in the country where services are provided for PLHIV’s to which the CSOs have told a huge gathering on World AIDS Day that said challenge will slower the country’s ability to meet its 2020 target.
Reading the Statement on behalf of the CSOs, Evans Adofo stated that PLHIV’s have lost confidence in the system which he said is currently a risk to the treatment and new effection chain in the country.
“Because of weak supply chain system which is contributing to stock-out, many persons living with HIV had lost confidence and have given up in seeking treatment at various facilities.
Evans pointed out that the loss to follow up cases has led PLHIV’s seeking traditional herbalist advice in finding a cure for the virus, which he noted threatens the response. “We call on the government of Liberia especially the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Health to investigate this matter because it is undermining the response. They do not do follow up anymore, a very important aspect to their survival”.
The Group observed that in order to decentralize treatment opportunities across the country, adequate support is needed for organizations moving the national response forward especially the Association of Persons living with HIV in which they will serve as ambassadors in creating more awareness and ensuring confidentiality.
The last time this organization had an office was when Population Services International was renting an office which is now closed due to lack of funding. “Logistics is also a major problem facing LibNet+ because we are unable to reach out to the 15 counties to monitor drug stuck out.
We are also experiencing lack of funding to enhance transportation to the various counties; this has created the situation where counties’ structures for persons living with HIV can no longer be reached. We appeal for adequate funding capacity to keep those structures active and keep raising awareness on HIV issues”.
In the Integrated Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) 2013 on Liberia’s HIV Prevalence showed 2.1% of the country’s population affected which was high among Men having Sex with Men (MSM) (19.8%). They are closely followed by Female Sex Worker (FSW) (9.8%) and Uniform services personnel (5.0%). Youth in school had the lowest HIV prevalence (1.1%) with no significant difference between male (1.3%) and female (1.0%).
A similar trend was observed among out of school youth (OSY) with the prevalence being 1.9% and no significant difference between male (2.3%) and female was dramatically (1.4%). Injecting drug users (IDUs) was predominantly male occupational group with the HIV prevalence of 3.9%, whereas Miners recorded a prevalence of 3.8%. Among Transport workers and Mobile traders, a considerably high prevalence of 4.8% and 4.5% was recorded.
According to CSOs representative, Evans, the lack of access to medication for key and vulnerable populations including sexual minority persons living with HIV still stands as a challenge that needs to be addressed. “Funding for key population needs to be directed to a strategic organization to ensure sustainable ownership, greater involvement of local structures and increase visibility”
The CSOs among other things recommended the appointment of a PLHIV on the National AIDS Commission Board or as commissioner which they believe will serve the interest of the 2.1 population already affected by the virus, “As it is done in other countries, we are recommending to President George Manneh Weah to appoint a representative of persons living with HIV as one of the commissioners or board members at the National AIDS Commission as a means of directly involving persons infected with the virus in Liberia”.
In response to the CSOs call for effective supply chain system for ART across Liberia, Health Minister Willimena Jallah acknowledged the huge stuck out at several facilities across the country and stated that the ministry is currently working on mechanisms to ensure the effectiveness of the supply avenue for quality services.
Min. Jallah noted that the Ministry of Health plays a pivotal role in the national response; she, however, assured PLHIVs and CSOs that the ministry will continuously work to improve every necessary step to ensure that the country meets its target in time. “What I can say for now is that we are working on everything that term to slow the supply chain of the ARTs in facilities but we are asking the patients to help us straighten the system by reporting irregularities while seeking treating”.
“We are encouraging people today and always to do their test and know their status because our Country needs to be par with other countries that are making head waves in achieving the 3 90s targets.”
Earlier on the Chair of the National AIDS Commission Madam Kolee stressed the need for proper coordination in order for the national response to yield fruits.
The Country’s National Strategic Plan 2015-2020 developed in 2014 replaces the National Strategic Framework 2010-2015 and provides a more ambitious action plan and targets. The NSP 2015- 2020 is intended to create an AIDS-free society Goal of the NSP; to stop new HIV infections and keep people living with HIV alive and healthy in Liberia Aim of the NSP.
The NSP also aims to provide a result-based framework for driving the decentralized, multi-sectoral national HIV and AIDS response within which all HIV and AIDS.
To date HIV prevalence in urban areas is put at 2.6 percent (3.2% in Monrovia) and is much higher than in rural areas at 0.8 percent, and HIV prevalence among women 2.4% (increased from 1.8%) is significantly higher than in men 1.9% (increased from 1.2% in 2007).