By Rohey Jadama
Gambia is celebrating World Aids Day today, Monday, 1st December, at Brikama, West Coast Region, as announced at a press briefing organised by the National Aids Secretariat (NAS) on Tuesday, 27 November 2014, at its office on t Kairaba Avenue.
The theme for this year is “Closing the Gap”.
Mrs. Jainaba Nyang Njie of Action Aid International The Gambia (AAITG), who also chaired the press briefing, told reporters that the event will be marked by activities such as the traditional march pass parade by the students, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations, a football match and voluntary counseling and testing in all the regions of the Gambia as well as a caravan going around the country to sensitise the people on HIV and AIDS prevention and the steps to take in order to reduce its prevalence.
Mr. Alpha Khan, the Deputy Director of NAS, said according to the recent demographic survey of the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) Lower River Region (LRR) has the highest prevalence of HIV and Aids followed by West Coast Region. He said this day is set aside by the United Nations to create awareness about the pandemic and to raise positive actions to stop the spread of the disease and to eradicate it in 2030.
“The government has taken a number of steps such as access to free medical care and the prevention of mother to child transmission,” he said.
He added that the government will remain committed to the fight against HIV and Aids and will continue to create a conducive environment in which concrete policies and strategies will be developed and implemented. “We have trained health workers with a view to strengthening the health system as part of the HIV and AIDs campaign,” disclosed the Deputy Director of NAS.
Speaking on behalf of the Action-Aid Director, Mr. Almamo Barrow, the AAITG Program Specialist for HIV and AIDS and Malaria, said a lot of achievements have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDs but there are still challenges.
“Everyone has a role to play in advocating against the spread of HIV and AIDs and A.A.I.T.G will continue to be committed in mobilizing resources to fight against HIV and AIDs and it will remain our top priority,” assured Mr. Barrow.
For his part, Mr. Pa Ousman Bah, the Program Manager of National Aids Control Programme (NACP), said in 2013, there were 35 million people living with HIV and since the start of the epidemic, around 78 million people have become infected with HIV and that 39 million people have died of AIDs-related illnesses.
“The theme for this year is “Closing the gap”, we want to close the gap to zero new HIV infections, close the gap to zero AIDS-related deaths, close the treatment gap, close the gap for HIV/Tuberculosis, and close the access gap,” said the NACP Program Manager.
Mr. Bah revealed that the women are always coming forward for voluntary counseling and testing but that the men are not forthcoming.
“A series of sensitization programmes have been done specifically for the men but you will only see them when they are chronically ill. Not everybody who is infected needs treatment; it is only if your CD4 reaches to 500 that is the time you are put under treatment and if you start the treatment you cannot stop it,” he said.
The NACP Program Manager underscored the need to eradicate the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease. He said they are more focused on conventional medicine which they have knowledge of.