In commemoration of World AIDS Day, the U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone, June Carter Perry, urged that those living with HIV in the West African country should not be stigmatized, and that they should be respected for their courage rather than be shunned, the Concord News reports.

According to the article, Perry said that the nation should be encouraged by its progress but must also acknowledge that more needs to be done in terms of providing treatment to those in need. The latest statistics from the United Nations and the World Health Organization suggest that since 1990, Sierra Leone’s infection rate has continuously increased.

“I am convinced that with their commitment and the support of the international community, they can eliminate stigma, treat those individuals already affected by HIV and decrease in the number of people with AIDS in Sierra Leone,” Perry said.

The U.S. Congress this year reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which authorizes up to $48 billion during the next five years to provide treatment for 3 million people worldwide suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to care for about 12 million more.