Written by Solomon Watkins-+231 (0) 886 427 519/ysolomonwwatkins@gamil.com

President of the Liberian Network of People Living with HIV (LIBNEP+) Joejoe Baysah
President of the Liberian Network of People Living with HIV (LIBNEP+) Joejoe Baysah

MONROVIA: More than three (3) decades now, HIV and AIDS continue to remain a major threat to Global Developmental Agendas, particularly programs of the Government of Liberia and its citizens.

According to the 2014 Liberia Demography Health Survey (2014LDS), the prevalence of people living with HIV has increased from 1.5% in 2007 to 1.9% currently. The survey noted that the 1.9% accounts for thirty eight thousand people tested HIV positive out of the Nation’s 4.2 million population.

As the national HIV and AIDS response is still confronted with challenges of stigma and discrimination, limited capacity for effective program implementation, ineffective monitoring and reporting of the national response, and most importantly, over dependency on external funding for the national program, Ebola which is being considered more than a health issue has begun to infect and killed people living with HIV in the country.

Already People Living with HIV (PLHIV) immune system are weakened by HIV and is only with the help of the Antiretroviral therapy (ART) which is a treatment that can suppressed HIV and AIDS, latest reports gathered from associations of people living with the virus and their members revealed that more than seven (7) persons who had HIV have died of Ebola related causes in Liberia.

Madam Cynthia Quaqua, President of the Liberian Women Empowerment Network
Madam Cynthia Quaqua, President of the Liberian Women Empowerment Network

Since Ebola outbreak in March 2014, Madam Cynthia Quaqua, President of the Liberian Women Empowerment Network (LIWEN) told the Anti-AIDS Media Network team of reporters in Monrovia that out of the seven persons, who have pass away so far, five were female and rests were male.

She disclosed that only one out of the five female died of the EVD while the rest died due to lack of access to treatment, care and support.
The LIWEN Boss explained that the woman died after coming in contact with a confirmed Ebola infected pregnant woman who vomited while on board a vehicle from Monrovia to Lofa County. She said their colleague died few days after the pregnant woman pass away.

Apart from the woman, Madam Quaqua continues that the other six persons died due to the suspension of treatment protocol of PLHIV which she claimed should have include testing of sick persons to determine their level of infections before providing them drugs and admitting them as well.

She disclosed that a 26 year old woman in Grand Bassa County died after striving to access testing center to determine how to continue her medication, but no health worker could provide her such service.

The LIWEN President also disclosed that a 14 year old girl died few weeks ago in Montserrado County. According to her, the girl was provided drugs by health practitioners at the National AIDS/STIs Control Program in Sinkor without conducting a test.

Another 24 year old boy in Bong County also died due to the same testing/treatment issue.

“And most recently,” Madam Quaqua noted that three of the organization’s in Southeastern Liberia-River Gee County died due to the same situation.

“This is an unfortunate situation for us people living with HIV especially, women, girls and children. Without treatment, we cannot live, we need the help of our international partners,” Madam Quaqua said.

The information was confirmed by the President of the Liberian Network of People Living with HIV (LIBNEP+) Joejoe Baysah, who described the current Ebola situation in Liberia as “dangerous and troublesome for the survivability of people living with HIV as well as ordinary citizens who are not infected with HIV.”

“Already, we are trying to live on medications which we are praying everyday that one day the world can find a cure for this HIV issue, Ebola which is being considered more than a health issue has come to add onto our sorrows. Nowadays, no one conducting test for PLHIV, our treatment protocol only focuses on drug distribution leaving out the rest,” Mr. Joejoe averred.

However, authorities of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) could not confirmed or deny reports of the increasing PLHIV deaths and lack of access to treatment.

Speaking to the Anti-AIDS Media Network, Dr. Julia T. Garbo-Program Manager of NACP said that they never had control over testing of sick persons, considering the prevailing Ebola situation in the country.

She said understanding that Ebola is contentious and that it spreads from one person to another person through body fluid or coming in close contact with the sick people, the program could not have continue testing of the sick, especially between July to August of this year; “when the virus killed more health workers”.

Notwithstanding, Dr. Garbo said to avoid drug resistance and other HIV related complications, NACP distributed throughout the country  drug that could carry a person living with HIV more than one month before he/she can request additional.

Dr. Ivan F. Camanor-Chairman of the National AIDS Commission of Liberia
Dr. Ivan F. Camanor-Chairman of the National AIDS Commission of Liberia

“There are still sufficient drug in country for PLHIVs. What was suspended was not the treatment protocol but testing which we never had control over at the time,” Dr. Garbo said.

For his part, Dr. Ivan F. Camanor-Chairman of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) who could not also confirmed nor deny that PLHIVs are dying, admitted  to reports that “due to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, many sectors including the nation’s HIV response has come to a standstill.”

Dr. Camanor said “the National AIDS Commission was established by a legislation to promote a more multi-sectoral response beyond the health sector with a purpose of serving as the primary national body to coordinate monitor and mobilize resources for the national response to HIV, but these programs are stalled, currently.

“Even progress to develop our first HIV and AIDS National Strategy Plan and our Prevention of HIV Transmission from Mother to their babies are unable to continue. This means achieving our shared targets of Getting to Zeros by 2015 would be difficult thing,” Dr. Camanor noted.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 people have died in the ongoing Ebola epidemic, according to World Health Organization figures published Friday October 10, 2014.

The disease is spread via the bodily fluids of infected patients, leaving health workers especially vulnerable. More than 400 health workers have contracted the disease – about half of them in Liberia, where personal protective equipment is scarce. Both Liberia and Sierra Leone have recorded 95 health worker deaths; written by Solomon Watkins-+231 (0) 886 427 519 / ysolomonwwatkins@gamil.com.

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