HIV has been one of the most daunting public health concerns over the past 30 years The number and circumstances of HIV infection have had devastating effects across Sub-Saharan Africa, with impacts being felt in all sectors of society including the economy and the family. Women and children are mostly affected, since they are most vulnerable to one of the prominent modes of transmission: mother to child transmission. One of the major factors contributing to AIDS related deaths in this group is stigma and discrimination, which often translates into lack of support from male partners and ostracism by the community. These eventually lead to lost to follow up, denial, among others. Despite the effect, there is positive news that the pandemic of HIV can be eliminated – through prevention. One of the most effective preventive methods is public education through behavior change communication.
The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), under the SIDA H4+ initiative, has been working with the National AIDS Commission to institute mechanisms aimed at linking primary and secondary communities in Maryland, River Gee and Grand Kru Counties. A total of 189 communities were reached in the three counties. The Project has entered its second phase which is being implemented by the National AIDS Commission in three (3) additional counties: Rivercess, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount. The second phase of the Project aims to link communities in the above mentioned counties with nine (9) health facilities (three in each of these counties). Key components of this community mobilization effort include the creation of visibility of the project through the erection of billboards, printing, production and distribution of IEC/BCC materials and holding of radio discussions with community members on PMTCT related issues.
The SIDA/UNAIDS H4+ Community Mobilization Component, being an initiative intended to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV through social engagements and community awareness, seeks to achieve the following:
· Educate the community members in the three mentioned counties about PMTCT
· Encourage community members, especially females, to make use of the PMTCT services at H4+ health facilities in their localities
· Create visibility about the project in the mentioned counties
· Reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, especially women
· Ensure that children born to HIV positive mothers are HIV free.