National Aids Secretariat engages religious groups on HIV/AIDS

BY Brima Sannoh in Kenema
The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat has engaged the Sierra Leone Inter Religious AIDS Network (SLIRAN) on a follow up meeting at the NAS regional office along Hangha Road in Kenema.
The meeting which was aimed at addressing domestic resource generation brought together Imams, Pastors and other stakeholders from Pujehun, Bo, Bonthe and Moyamba districts in Southern religion and Kenema, Kono and Kailahun districts in the eastern region to discuss the recommendations of scoping mission on the establishment of a National HIV/AIDS basket funding on the theme: Achieving the 90-90-90 mobilizing resources for sustainability of the National HIV and AIDS response.
In his welcome statement to participants from south-east, the Regional Coordinator of NAS East Dr. Mohamed M.B.Sisay on behalf of the Director General of the National AIDS programme and Senior Management expressed delight in the turnout of participants especially representatives of both Islam and Christianity religion.

Dr. Sisay revealed that the HIV/AIDS response in Sierra Leone is on the cross-road adding that gains have been made over the past five years in the fight against HIV/AIDS while stressing that the prevalence of the epidemic still stands at 1.5% which indicate that a total number of 54,000 people are living with the virus. The NAS Regional Coordinator predicted that to turn the wheel and ensure that the response is put under control the need for resource mobilization is timely and goes a long way in mitigating the dreadful disease. He used the session to remind the SLIRAN that as a religious body they are core in combatting HIV remarking that the need for them to join the band wagon is paramount. Similar statements were echoed by the Regional Coordinator –South Mr Thaim Kargbo and two Chairpersons of SLIRAN gave update on the operations of the religious network championing HIV/IDS sensitization to their various congregations in their respective regions.
When asked about the role of faith based leaders in mitigating the AIDS virus especially on the ongoing national response;Rev. Gibrilla Kamara Chairman of Inter Religions AIDS Network (SLIRAN) Kenema explained that is very important for pastors and Imams in the eastern region to constant preach in their sermons at their various churches, mosques and funeral services about the HIV/AIDS causes, stigmatization and prevention. He maintained that monthly coordination meetings and financial contributions by congregants will yield fruits in providing care and support for people living with HIV as well as help reduce new infection cases.
Making statement, the District Coordinator of SLIRAN Bo, Alhaji AbuBakar Mustapha Kowaunderscored that both the mosque and churches have made robust effort in the fight against HIV/AIDS there by encouraging their members to know their status by going for their test remarking that his Jaamat has been providing transport refunds to participants at the end of each meeting they held.
During his power-point presentation on the scoping mission report for resource mobilization drive, Dr. Sisay mentioned the background of the report highlighting the focus of the response while focusing on the six thematic areas including Coordination, Decentralized Response, Resource Mobilization and management, Policy, Advocacy, Human Rights and legal Environment , Prevention of New HIV infection, Treatment of HIV and other related Health conditions, Care and support for the infected and affected by HIV and Research, Monitoring and Evaluation among others.
The national response according to Dr. Sisay needed a total cost of three Hundred and Twenty-two Million United States Dollars for HIV/AIDS response with only 100Million dollar available at the moment leaving a gap of two hundred and twenty-two million dollar. “The question now is how we can fill the gap so that we can have and meet to our dream as a nation.” asked Dr. Sisay and further stated the opportunities, challenges and recommendations of the mission report on domestic resource mobilization strategy.
The NAS Regional Coordinator East concluded by appealing to religious leaders who he described as “core duty bearers and agents of transformation, capable of turning the tide against the HIV/AIDS disease saying that they must recognize their interconnection; regardless of geographical, cultural or religious constructs taking into consideration respect for each other before calling on them to stand shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

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