By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Speaking at the national launching of the Trans- Gambia Corridor Road Construction Project last week at the Baobab Holiday Resort in Bijilo, the Executive Director of the National Aids Secretariat (NAS), Mr. Ousman Badjie, said the latest surveys on HIV/ AIDS prevalence in The Gambia indicate that the Lower River Region (LRR), for the past few years, is the hardest hit region.
He said they have not done any scientific assessment to ascertain the underlying factors responsible for this situation in the region but that evidence elsewhere can be extrapolated to conclude that the long distance truck drivers and other key populations may be a contributing factor.
“We know from evidence that transportation and other mobile populations are regarded as key populations because they continue to drive the HIV epidemic around the world,” he said.
The NAS director said this is the reason why the 52 million Euros Trans- Gambia Corridor Project is very significant in helping to address the issue. He expressed delight with the fact that there is a vibrant group of consultants for the project which even concludes a sociologist as sociology has a key role to play in the response to HIV globally.
He said during the beginning of the pandemic, the way information was disseminated to the public relating to HIV & AIDS eventually had a very negative impact in their response to the disease.
Mr. Badjie said people described it as deadly, incurable and associate it with homosexuals, female sex workers and drug users but that little did they know that even transportation and road construction, in particular, contributes immensely to the spread of HIV & AIDS around the world.
The NAS director noted that having been fully conscious of this fact, major donors in the world have now taken it seriously to include a component of HIV & AIDS in any major road construction project.
“We need to face the reality as far as HIV & AIDS is concern in The Gambia. Relatively, we are still described as a low prevalence country but if you look at the specifics, it is very worrisome,” said Mr. Badjie.
He said according to the Demographic Health Survey conducted for the first time in the Gambia in 2013, HIV prevalence in The Gambia is 1.9% and the National Sentiment Surveillance indicates that it is 1.57%. He cited examples like Botswana with HIV prevalence of 35%, adding that Gambia is relatively low in terms of prevalence.