The overall goal of the HIV/AIDS programme in UNMIL as in other peacekeeping missions is to minimize the risks of peacekeepers getting infected or transmitting HIV and other STIs in the course of duty in the mission
Background to HIV programme in Peacekeeping Missions
Conflict and post Conflict environments are high risks areas for the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1308 (2000) set out the obligation of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and later Department of Field Support (DFS) to provide HIV and STIs awareness and prevention programmes for all peacekeeping personnel. This programme is to reduce the risk of peacekeepers contracting and or spreading HIV. Resolution 1308 was reiterated in Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and the 2001 United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/S-26/2.
Security Council Resolution 1308 (2000) also recognizes the devastating impact that HIV has on all sectors of society and stresses that the HIV/AIDS pandemic, if unchecked, may pose a risk to stability and security. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS Declaration of Commitment (June 2001), endorsed by resolution A/RES/S-26/2 and reiterated in 2006 by Resolution A/RES/60/262, set out a common set of targets and agreed strategies to reduce the spread of HIV and mitigate its impact.
It called for HIV/AIDS components to be included in the international assistance programmes in crises situations. More specifically, in addition to training for personnel involved in peacekeeping operations, the Declaration called on Member states ‘by 2003 to have in place national strategies to address the spread of HIV among national uniformed services, where this is required, including armed forces and civil defence forces.
As a critical actor at the early stages of the post-conflict recovery process, peacekeeping missions have as well a responsibility to collaborate with United Nations Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programme to mainstream HIV concerns in the implementation of mission mandates and the broader recovery process as part of the integrated approach to peacekeeping. This is particularly the case where peacekeeping operations are a key player in designing and implementing programmes, such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and in the training and mentoring of national uniformed services, as both national uniformed forces and non-state actors are considered high risks groups. HIV/AIDS also has strong gender dimensions because of the increased vulnerability of young women and girls to infection.
In July 2011, the UN Security Council passed the SCR 1983 which mandates the extension of HIV awareness and prevention training, services and programmes to communities and vulnerable populations at risk; training of national uniformed services (military and police) and the prisons/corrections; Security Sector Reforms and demobilisation programmes.
The strategy in UNMIL is to equip peacekeepers with the right information on HIV, STIs and AIDS to enable them made the right decisions to prevent infection or transmitting HIV and STIs. This is done through:
- Awareness training in which the facts and myths of HIV are imparted to peacekeepers as well as how the virus is transmitted or not transmitted. The fact that an infection is for life but one can prevent him or herself from becoming infected is stressed.
- Posters and flyers are designed and displayed in all mission facilities to remind and buttress the continuing provision of on HIV/AIDS and STIs information.
- Weekly radio programme hosted by UNMIL radio when topical issues on HIV/AIDS are discussed with guests from the HIV/AIDS Unit and from the national authorities.
- Using specific occasions such as the World AIDS Day, World Health Day, and UN Day amongst others the special theme of the day is used to educate all peacekeepers on the prevention of HIV infection, stigmatisation treatment and behaviour change amongst others.
The next strategy is to empower peacekeepers to prevent becoming infected? The simple ABC of HIV/STI infection prevention strategy is used.
- A. Abstinence from sexual intercourse in the course of duty in the mission especially as the mission is a non-family mission and spouses are not permitted to live with peacekeepers, there is the tendency to indulge sexual intercourse with somebody who is not a regular partner.
- B. Being faithful to a faithful partner whose HIV status you know and who knows your status and trusts each other that one will not indulge in a sexual relationship with others.
- C. Condom use (continuously and consistently) by those who cannot abstain and be faithful. Both male and female condoms are procured and programmed for troops and civilian staff. Condom dispensers are placed in vantage points throughout the mission for easy and private access by all peacekeepers.
- Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) treatment is offered to any peacekeeper who may be exposed to HIV infection based on the protocols and conditions on PEP administration. The one month treatment kits are available in vantage contingents’ hospitals and the UN clinics in the mission such that all peacekeepers have easy geographic access to treatment.
Knowing ones’ status:
Getting to know one’s HIV status has been recognised as an important strategy in promoting health behaviour and reducing transmission. The mission HIV/AIDS Unit therefore provides HIV voluntary confidential counselling and testing (VCCT) services to peacekeepers.
Two static sites operate daily in the mission headquarters in PAP and the logistics base Star Base both in Monrovia. In addition mobile testing is conducted in locations outside Monrovia mainly for troop contingents and formed police units twice in the course of duty before rotating home.
The red ribbon with a riffle across is given to anyone who avails him or herself of testing in the mission to be worn on uniforms and dresses as part of mission leadership policy.
Integration of HIV issues into the mission Mandate.
In line with DPKO/DFS Policy HIV/AIDS issues are mainstreamed into mission mandates especially in the following sectors in which training and preventive strategies on HIV are made available to the government and people of Liberia as well as peacekeepers involved in these support to Liberia.
- Security Sector Reform(SSR) in the re-establishment and retraining of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Liberia National Police and the Bureau of National Immigration officers.
- In the promotion of gender equity, the role of gender and sexually based violence in the transmission of HIV infections and reducing stigmatization.
- UNMIL radio is widely listened to by Liberians and therefore HIV prevention programmes hosted by the Public Information unit of the mission are targeted to the population as a whole.
- As part of the maintaining good general conduct and discipline by peacekeepers HIV/AIDS is discussed and imparted into the dos and don’ts that sustain discipline and good conduct by peacekeepers adhering to the Code of Conduct and the Zero Tolerance Policy of the UN.
UN Joint Team on AIDS
The Unit participates in the activities and plans of the UN Joint Team on AIDS in providing technical support to the National AIDS Commission and the HIV/AIDS Control programme. The Joint team is a team of HIV/AIDS programme officers from UN agencies, funds and programmes in Liberia. The team also represents the UN Delivering as One concept tasked with the implementation of programmes under the UNDAF Outcome 5 of Liberia.