Monday, July 1, 2013

UNAIDS is ending operations in The Gambia

Local agencies, especially AIDS support societies in The Gambia (where an estimated 500 people still die of HIV/AIDS or related diseases every year) have been taken aback by this decision.

UNAIDS, a Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, has started a process that will end its operations in The Gambia. 

This process will end in September 2013, when the agency will finally close-down operations in Banjul.

Sources said UNAIDS is closing its Banjul offices in order to intensify operations in Nigeria and Cameroon.

UNAIDS Country Director in Banjul, Mr Nuha Ceesay, on Friday confirmed his office is terminating its functions in the country but fall short of giving details.

The UN agency has over the years presided over a massive HIV/AIDS global campaign that saw universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.  

As the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the agency has also presided over the reduction of the world’s new infections.

Local agencies, especially AIDS support societies in The Gambia have been taken aback by this decision. 

Since 1986 when the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in The Gambia, about 26, 000 people are living with the virus today, according to estimates by the UNAIDS.

UNAIDS statistics indicate that the highest level of HIV prevalence in The Gambia was 2.8 per cent (%) and ever since the prevalence has been between 1.2% and 1.67%.

“It may be difficult to sustain the gains registered,” a leader of an AIDS Support Group told The Voice on Friday. 

An estimated 500 people still die of HIV/AIDS or related diseases every year in The Gambia, according to the National Aids Secretariat, NAS.

This means some 6500 people might have died of the disease since the year 2000, according to The Voice estimates. 

Musa Camara, Programme Coordinator Gambia National Aids Support Society (GAMNASS),  said GAMNASS is informed the UNAIDS Banjul office is closing due to fiancial reasons.

On June 28, GAMNASS, WorldView and Peopple Living with HIV (PLHIV) Community called on the the UNAIDS  to reverse its decision to cease operations in the tiny West African nation.

15 other countries across the world will be affected by the UNAIDS decision to scale-dwon operation. The Gambia is the only  country affected in the sub-regional economic bloc, ECOWAS.

“It will affect the country and has serious economic implications on our nation. It leaves many people sick,” Musa Camara stressed.

The UNAIDs mission is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV/AIDS - including preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support to those living with the virus, reducing the vulnerability of individuals, communities to HIV, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic. 

Written by Modou S. Joof
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