‘HIV is not transmitted by witchcraft ‘

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The Eastern Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Ms Golda Grace Asante, has explained that HIV infection is not as a result of witchcraft or curse.   

She has, therefore, called on family heads to ensure that their relations who have contracted HIV attend hospital.

Ms Asante was speaking at this year’s World AIDS Day at Finte, a farming community on Atimpoku-Ho with a high population of teenage mothers.

The celebration, which was organised by the Eastern Regional AIDS Committee and the Asuogyaman District AIDS Committee, was marked by male and female football competition among teams from Osiabura, Frankadua, and Apegusu and Finte communities.   

There was also male and female bicycle competition, which was organised by Vida Cycling Programme, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), committed to the promotion of cycling.   

Ms Asante expressed regret that despite efforts being made at reducing HIV infections in the country, many people did not know their HIV status, how to protect themselves against risky sexual relations, and some mothers and children were dying from AIDS.   

She advised young people who could not abstain from sex to use condom to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.    

Ms Asante explained that the high number of teenage mothers in the community was an indication that some young people were involved in unprotected sex.

She appealed to pregnant women to attend ante-natal clinic to know their HIV status so that the unborn babies of those who would test positive would be protect from contracting the disease.   

The Asuogyaman District Chief Executive, Mr Johnson Ahiakpor, appealed to the youth to avoid indiscriminate sex.    

The Asuogyaman District HIV focal person, Mr Brian Tsikpor, also explained that women cycling and soccer were added to the programme to rally more women for education on the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.  

Ms Vida Juliet Vivie, Director of Vida Cycling Programme, appealed for sponsorship to enable her to develop cycling in the area to produce professional cyclists for the country.

In another development, the Women’s Wing of the National Association of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS (NAP+) in a  communiqué issued at an advocacy meeting organised by ActionAid-Ghana in Wa, as part of this year’s celebration, expressed concern about the level of stigmatisation and discrimination against People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and called for positive steps to deal with it.

The association said such steps should help deal ruthlessly with people, including health workers, employees and landlords who stigmatise and discriminate against PLHIV.  

The communiqué, which was read by Madam Regina Zaghe, NAP+ Women’s Wing Leader, noted that if such measures were not put in place, stigmatisation and discrimination against PLHIV would not stop.  

The communiqué also called on the government to take steps to ensure regular supply of antiretroviral (ART) drugs in order to make it accessible at all health facilities just as it did for malaria drugs.   

The communiqué appealed to the government to abolish the GH¢5.00 charge for ART and rather ensure its integration into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) drug coverage list.  

The communiqué also expressed concern about the difficulty involved in accessing the alleged one percent common fund by PLHIV at the District Assemblies. 

It therefore appealed to the government to deduct the money at source and pay it directly into the accounts of NAP+ as done for People with Disabilities. 

An Official from ActionAid, Mr George Dery, said several of such advocacy meetings had been held in the past and the outcome was the installation of CD4 count machines in all District Hospitals in the Upper West Region in addition to accessibility to ART in all the hospitals.

Hitherto, people travelled from the region to Bolgatanga or Kumasi in order to access the drug and other services.  

Mr Dery appealed to NAP+ to continue to work together not only to get government support but also to reduce the spread of HIV among the populace in the region and the nation at large.

He also pledged that ActionAid-Ghana would continue to partner with right holders to advocate for improved living conditions for PLHIV to enable them live normal lives and contribute their quota towards the development of mother Ghana. 

In a speech read on his behalf, the Upper West Regional Minister Alhaji Amidu Sulemana commended ActionAid-Ghana for the support it had been giving to PLHIV in the region over the years. 

He said such support had contributed to a reduction in the HIV prevalence rate in the region from 3.1 percent in 2009, to 1.7 percent in 2010 and further to 1.0 percent in 2011 as indicated in the 2011 HIV Sentinel Survey Report.

Alhaji Sulemana called for redoubling of efforts to prevent new infections, AIDS related deaths and stigmatisation as captured in the theme for the 2012 World AIDS Day Celebration.

The Regional Minister said the government was committed to the health care of PLHIV and to prove this during this year’s World AIDS day celebration, President John Dramani Mahama gave a directive for the removal of the GH¢5.00 service charge on accessing ART by persons currently under the NHIS.

He also announced that plans were ready to register all PLHIV on the NHIS to enable them access the drug free of charge.  

Alhaji Sulemana commended NAP+ for coming together as a body and urged them to use the platform to encourage more people to voluntarily go for testing to know their status.  

The Regional President of NAP+ Mr Emmanuel Beluzeb commended ActionAid and the government for their commitment to support them to live normal lives to contribute their quota to the development of the nation.