By Abdoulie John
The Gambia’s First Lady, Fatoumatta B. Barrow, said Thursday that the welfare of women and children are top priorities for her Office, including the prevention of Mother-To-Children transmission of HIV (PMTCT).
“For this reason, I headed a nationwide caravan last year aimed at sensitising the public on issues related to HIV and AIDS in Gambia, while also providing counselling and testing services to people,” she said in her closing remarks at the stakeholders meeting on the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in The Gambia, and which was held at Coco Ocean in Bijilo.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affect women and children, posing a threat to their health and wellbeing. As a member of the Organusation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), Gambia’s Fatoumatta B. Barrow has been very active in the areas of advocacy for increased awareness on HIV/AIDS, resources mobilization, and put up sustainable measures geared towards improving maternal and child health.
She disclosed that a total of 775 people were tested during last year’s caravan, adding that 15 people (7 men and 8 women) among the lot turned out to be HIV positive.
The First Lady further stated that efforts have been scaled up in combating paediatric AIDS as she launched the “Free-To-Shine campaign aimed at ending childhood AIDS by 2030 and keeping mothers alive.”
The said event, which took place at Bundung Maternal and Child Hospital, was graced by a cross section of the community, development partners who have been providing support to people living with the virus.
“Subsequently, I have been reliably informed that in fulfilment of the pledge made at this event, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided food in the form of super cereals to the community of people living with HIV and AIDS,” she said.
Fatoumatta B. Barrow seized the opportunity to remind the gathering of the need to have an active participation and support from the community, nothing that the success of PMTCT highly depends on the effective involvement of people.
In this context, she assured that her Office will always make sure that the community of people living with HIV/AIDS are part of the beneficiary groups.
In his introductory remarks for a panel discussion centred on PMTCT Services in the country, the Minister of Health Dr. Amadou Samateh reiterated the gov’t commitment to leading the Health sector’s response in the fight against HIV/AIDS. “From very dark beginning, we have made significant progress,” he said.
Dr. Samateh thanked the Office of the First Lady for their immense contribution in the fight against the pandemic. The Health Minister vowed to keep up with challenges and make sure that country will move towards an AIDS free generation.
UNICEF Country Rep., Sandra Lattouf, called on all stakeholders to put their hands on deck and expressed the urgent need to reach all communities.
“We need to ensure that services are available,” she voiced out while assuring Gambia government of their continued support.