- The government of Sierra Leone is faced with the challenges of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, which is derailing its efforts to supply anti-retroviral drugs to its targeted number of people living with the virus by the end of the year. The Sierra Leonean government wants to supply at least 2,000 of the AIDS population in the country.
The results of a national survey published this year showed that about 1.5 percent of the country's five million people are living with the deadly virus. Of this figure, only 1,178 people are currently receiving life-saving anti-retroviral drugs at the public health facilities in the country.
More than a decade-long civil war has reportedly shot up the AIDS community in West Africa's diamond-rich country. During the war, many women have been raped by the brutal RUF rebels.
Stigma and fear have been blamed for hampering people to go for voluntary tests against HIV in Sierra Leone, although all district hospitals and multiple sites in the capital Freetown provide the tests free of charge.
The UN media 'PlusNews' reported that the concept of voluntarily discovering one's HIV status is largely alien in Sierra Leone and most people are only tested after being referred to do so by their physician
"We are trying to encourage more agencies to become involved in social marketing of HIV testing ... if we can secure further funding from the World Bank, we would like to see a model of door-to-door mobilisation, as accessibility to testing sites is still a major barrier to some districts," Brima Kargbo, director of the National AIDS Secretariat, said.
Mr Kargbo said Sierra Leone is new in implementing HIV/AIDS programmes and is still borrowing cues from the experiences of other nations. Sierra Leone remains the world's poorest country.
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