The Gambia is facing a difficult challenge in its fights to eliminate HIV & AIDS by 2030 due to lack of political will and the stigma associated with the disease. 

Officials of the country’s National AIDS Secretariat said the growing fear of stigma and discrimination is making people not to go for HIV & AIDS testing at hospitals and health clinics. 

They also pointed out the lack of adequate funding for HIV &AIDS programmes including screening and sensitisation campaigns. 

In 1995, The Gambia pledged to eradicate the disease by 2030, but officials believe the country is not on course to achieving that target.  

There are currently 26,000 people in The Gambia who have tested positive for HIV & AIDS out of a popular of 2.5 million people. 

Speaking to reporters at a news conference held in Kairaba Avenue, Adam Drammeh, director of National Aids Secretariat noted the importance of political commitment from the government to the fight against HIV & AIDS in the country.

“Successful HIV responses need strong political leadership, addressing inequality, involving communities and organizations and ensuring enough sustainable funds,” she said, adding that “despite all these achievements, many new infections still happen each year because some people still do not know how to protect themselves   mainly due to the stigma and discrimination around them. And also around people living with HIV & AIDS.”

She urged the Gambian public that they “must not become complacent” that the virus is not in the country.

Sira Ndow, country director of United Nations Programme on HIV & AIDS, also highlighted that communities and civil societies are neglected in their efforts toward ending HIV & AIDS.

She said: “communities connect people with person-centered public health services, build trust, innovate, monitor implementation of policies and services and hold providers accountable. But communities are being held back in their leadership due to funding shortages, policies and regulatory challenges, capacity constraints, crackdown on civil societies, and the human rights of the marginalized communities.”

However, she said that If these obstacles are removed, community-organization can add even greater input to the global HIV response.

“We call on the communities’ leadership roles to be made core in all HIV plans and programs and in their formulations,” she added.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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