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Friday, December 1, 2023

Lady Zineb Jammeh: ‘We made a real difference’

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Madam Jammeh noted that the organisation of African First Ladies against Aids, OAFLAA, had made a ‘real difference’ in the lives of those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS.

“Our campaign to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS from the mother to the baby is crucial,” she said. “Over the years, the prevention of mother to child transmission has improved. Currently, there are 32 prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) sites across the country, and all those sites are intergraded into reproductive and child health clinics.

“This achievement could not have been possible without the unflinching support of our husbands and heads of state who continue to deliver on their promises.”

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Madam Jammeh was speaking yesterday at the Jammeh Foundation Hospital in Bundung during the launch of the campaign: ‘Early Infant Diagnosis of HIV’ in the Gambia, which seeks to scale down new HIV infections and reduce the rate of mother to child transmissions. 

Addressing the gathering attended by the vice president, Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, cabinet ministers and senior government officials, Madam Jammeh added:

“Today, we are here to make a difference. We are here to demonstrate to all and sundry that people living with HIV/AIDS are our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, uncles and aunts, mothers and fathers and our friends. We want to show them that they can live in peace and contribute their quota to national development. 

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“Since the emergence of effective HIV/AIDS treatment, children in the Gambia have always been tested at the age of 18 months. Efforts are being made to ensure early testing of children at 6 weeks. It is for this reason, my office join efforts with partner our, Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS, to launch the Early Infant Diagnosis in The Gambia.

“In 2013, 50,251 pregnant women were tested and received their HIV results. Out of 50,251, 773 tested positive, of which 729 were provided with PMTCT to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies.”

Madam Jammeh however said that despite the progress, a lot remains to be done, calling for more investment in the fight to prevent HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

“The road before us is clear,” she said. “We can actually reach there with smart investment while capitalising on scientific advancement and evidence. World leaders have made new promises; bold, tangible and realistic. These promises must now be delivered in every country and community and every person in need.

“It is worth noting that PMTCT is the goal standard for Aids and MDGs approach. It serves as key entry point for prevention, treatment, care and support services to whole family. However, out of the 72 reproductive and child health RCH sites, only 22 are providing free PMTCT services, thus the need for mobilising more resources to expand quality coverage. 

“The vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS remain high globally. Women are at the very center of human life, families and communities. If they are robbed of their rights, and dignity, we are losing opportunity to tap half the potential to achieve MDGs.”

The Minister of Health and Socail Welfare, Dr Omar Sey, said: “The launch of this campaign is a stirring affirmation of confidence that we can turn back the tide of HIV/AIDS and secure the future of our people and especially our children.

“Many of our children have been and continue to be affected by this epidemic, either because the virus has infected them during birth, or because they have become orphans due to AIDS-related death of their parents. Indeed, HIV/AIDS has caused a sharp increase in child mortality while at the same time increasing the number of orphans.

“We are in a defining moment. It is time to agree, on a transformational agenda to end this epidemic—one that will achieve our vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Getting to zero also demands that we unleash the power of innovation. If we can sustain our investments in research and development, and we will have, in five year’s time, simple and inexpensive diagnostics and medications that can be available to everyone, everywhere. We will have a microbicide that women can use to protect themselves from HIV. In addition, we will have a vaccine that will eradicate this virus. Getting to zero is not an inspirational goal or a magic number. It must be our common plan— to be transformed into reality.”

For his part, the mayor of Kanifing municipality, Yankuba Colley, told the gathering that the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV remains high in sub-Saharan Africa, revealing that about 76% of all HIV positive women in the world live in Africa.

“Gender inequality is a key driver of the epidemic in Africa. This is why HIV response must reach into the gender violence, discrimination and inequitable laws. Instead of lagging behind, women and girls must be put at the very centre of the AIDS response, he said.


By Sainey MK Marenah


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