The First Lady of Sierra Leone, Madam Sia Nyama Koroma has launched a national campaign to prevent new HIV infections among children called “Bon Pikin Wae Nor Get HIV” (Give Birth to Life without HIV).
The new initiative was developed by the First Lady’s Office in collaboration with UNAIDS, the Network of Women Living with HIV (Voice of Women), the National AIDS Control Programme and the National AIDS Secretariat. The campaign, led by the network of women living with HIV aims to raise awareness about HIV prevention among women of reproductive age in order to accelerate the uptake of HIV services to prevent new HIV infections among children.
The availability of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV has increased substantially in recent years, however, coverage is not uniform across the country. This campaign will try to address the existing gap mainly in rural areas where the service demand is still low.
Besides increasing demand for antenatal services, it is expected that the campaign will help promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women; improve access to antiretroviral prophylaxis amongst HIV positive women and strengthen the capacities and participation of women living with HIV in the promotion of the national agenda to stop HIV infections among children in Sierra Leone.
During the launch, the First Lady called on Sierra Leonean women and the general public to visit hospitals and health clinics to test for HIV. She emphasised the need for male participation in prenatal care services. “If we are to win the war against AIDS, we will need caring men and women to join us in the campaign,” she said.
Madam Kadija Sam Sumana, wife of the Vice-President of Sierra Leone, stressed the lack of education and information as the major cause in the spread of HIV in young girls. She encouraged parents to ensure that girls receive education and also to discourage teenage pregnancy and early marriages.
The UNAIDS Country Coordinator Dr Job Sagbohan welcomed the First Lady’s efforts in promoting maternal and child health and empowering women and girls for their social economic development. He assured UNAIDS continued commitment and support in the response to AIDS and in achieving the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015. “Progress is possible when we come together for a common cause - with vision, clear objectives and strong and sustained effort,” he said.