Monrovia - The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS ) in collaboration with the government of Liberia and partners have concluded a two-day training workshop with a focus on Liberia’s HIV and Social Protection Assessment Agenda, held at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia, between 21st and 22nd June 2017.
The HIV Sensitive Social Protection Initiative brought together over 40 representatives of the UN System, Government of Liberia, civil society, INGOs, NGOs including, policy makers, Persons living with HIV, young people (in and out of school youth), persons with disabilities, migrants, and caregivers of orphans to review the HIV and Social Protection situation of the West African State, Liberia.
Liberia has a generalized HIV epidemic with an HIV prevalence of 2.1% (2013 LDHS) with an estimated adult HIV population of over 30,000 (2015).
Significant variations in HIV prevalence exist between and within regions and counties. The epidemic is heterogeneous and variable across the country.
The prevalence is higher among females (2.4% especially those above 20 years) compared to males (1.8% especially those above 30 years).
Urban dwellers are more impacted (2.6%) than among rural (0.8%) residents and the South Central Region has the highest prevalence of 2.7% among the five regions and Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa counties have the highest HIV prevalence among the 15 counties and together account for about 70% of the burden of disease in the country.
Key populations are disproportionately impact by the epidemic because of their high-risk behaviors (Sex workers-9.8%, men who have sex with men 19.8%, people who inject drugs-5% etc).
Speaking during the opening of the workshop, UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Miriam Chipimo said the integration of HIV and Social protection interventions will help Liberia in achieving its targets toward a global response to end AIDS by 2030.
According to her, the UNAIDS 35th Program Coordinating Board (PCB) urged UNAIDS and its partners to conduct HIV and social protection assessments in countries that wish to develop country consultations on HIV and social protection considering the integrated program contributions to global AIDS response.
To this effect, Dr. Chipimo intoned that UNAIDS and partners have developed over the past months an HIV and Social Protection assessment tool.
“This tool is a quick scan of existing social protection programs and their interface or lack of with the AIDS response in a given country and locale.
The assessment provides countries and communities with tailored analysis on HIV and social protection and seeks to gather information on social protection programs and schemes exist in different countries and locations, their purpose, eligibility criteria and coverage; where people living with HIV, young women and girls at high risk of HIV infection, key populations and others are eligible to benefit from social protection benefits and if they are accessing existing social protection programs; and populations that are eligible but are excluded, or face barriers in accessing social protection benefits and what needs to be done to include these populations in existing social protection programs,” Dr. Chipimo averred.
The UNAIDS boss then called on stakeholders to critically review the HIV and Social Protection situation of Liberia because, according to her, the assessment is intended to support decision making in strengthening the HIV sensitivity of social protection programs and the national AIDS response, noting that the assessment will also contribute towards catalysing identification of fiscal space, cross-sector co-programming and co-financing of HIV and social protection programmes.
Also speaking, Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) of Liberia said HIV and Social Protection integration cannot be ignored because it is the responsibility of the government to improve the condition of all persons regardless of their health conditions.
According to Dr. Camanor, the government of Liberia is doing everything possible to improve the living stander of each and every Liberian and this will continue.
He further pointed out that the National AIDS Commission has worked with bilateral and multilateral partners together and the Ministry of Health on the Catch-up plan which focuses on 3 high burden counties to accelerate the delivery of HIV services in order for Liberia to catch up and get on the fast track.
“This plan is about focus, innovation, fast-track, and impact. The plan will be in two phases: Phase 1 will operate in an ‘’emergency mode’’ with a strategic focus on Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa.
This is because these counties according to the 2013 LDHS, have high HIV prevalence. Phase 2 of the plan will expand to other high burden counties to ensure that the HIV treatment gap for adults and children is significantly closed especially now that we are integrating HIV and Social Protection programs to effect the change we desired as a country,” said Dr. Camanor.
For his part, Mr. Gabriel Fernandez, Social Protection Coordinator at the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection said he strongly believe the HIV-sensitive social protection tool will help Liberia to monitor advancements and challenges toward meeting the social protection targets of the country’s population holistically.
According to him, issues of social protection is drawing more attention globally as well as nationally in helping to end poverty, increase access to health care services and protection for all which is cardinal to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Coordinator Fernandez expressed gratitude to the UN System especially the UNAIDS for its support toward the integration of HIV and Social protection programs of the government of Liberia which the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection and the Ministry of Health as well as the National AIDS Commission and partners. Developed and distributed by Solomon Watkins of the Anti-AIDS Media Network.