World AIDS Day 2018 was observed in Eritrea on 1 December 2018 under the theme “Know your Status” in Keren at the stadium with enthusiasm. This year was the 30th anniversary to mark the day. The event was started with a very detailed, clear, attractive and educative presentation on current situation of HIV/AIDS both at global and national levels, by Dr Araya Berhane, Head of the communicable diseases control division. He emphasized to participants the take home message of 'Know your status' - everyone to undergo medical testing to discover if they have the virus and to ensure those positive receive the right treatment and care.
The commemoration was in the presence of the Honorable Minister of Health, Mrs Amina Nurhussein; Director General of public health, Dr Andebrhan Tesfatsion; and the administration of Zoba Anseba; National Union of Eritrean Women representatives; National Union of Youth and Students representatives; WHO Representative for Eritrea, Dr Josephine Namboze; UNFPA Representative for Eritrea, Mr Ibrahim Sambuli; and the Religious leaders.
The director General of public health, Dr Andebrhan Tesfatsion, on behalf of honorable Minister of Health said that though Eritrea has made considerable progress towards reducing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS and still have a number of cases living with HIV. The continual work wit partners in preventing further spread of the disease would allow achieving elimination of the disease.
Mr Ibrahim Sambuli who represented the Resident Coordinator and read the message of both Secretary General and the UNAIDS Executive Director, emphasized the need for people to know their HIV status and their viral load. This would save the many lives that are needlessly dying due to the disease, with now available options on treatment, minimize those that are unknowingly spreading the disease and will help achieve viral suppression so that all those that have the disease are initiated on treatment and cannot spread the disease any further.
In her address, Dr Josephine Namboze, WHO Representative for Eritrea before reading the message on behalf the Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti asked the general population on how many knew their status. It was important to note that at least 50-75% of those in attendance raised their hands. She went on to read the message emphasizing HIV testing as essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives. She added that ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 90% of people diagnosed with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy; and 90% of people living with HIV, and are on treatment, achieve viral load suppression. She further emphasized the actions currently underway on Universal health coverage to ensure that all vital services are made as near as possible to the people needing them. Achieving this would allow minimal transmission of the disease and quickly lead to Eritrea achieving elimination of HIV.
The commemoration involved different educational as well as entertaining activities, amongst were athletics and cycling races, songs, poems, drama, speech competition and general knowledge competitions among students and mothers. Testimonials from someone living with HIV was given as well.
At the event all residents of Keren took part in the long parade held banners emphasizing the key message.