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Adwoa Dansowaa Awuku, Multi TV, Ghana: 88% Ghanaians despise HIV/AIDS patients

88% Ghanaians despise HIV/AIDS patients
Adwoa Dansowaa Awuku, August 12, 2011

Communications Manager for the AIDS Commission, Eric Pwadura has revealed that a demographic survey conducted by the Commission in 2008 revealed that 88% of Ghanaians are uncomfortable associating with HIV positive persons. This, he says, is making efforts at tackling HIV/AIDS counterproductive.

Speaking on Multi TV’s current affairs programme pm:EXPRESS, Mr. Pwadura noted that persons living with HIV/AIDS [PLWHA] face stigma at two different levels; one from the society, and then from the PLWHAs.


Societal stigma he said, was borne out of ignorance leading to discrimination and subsequently the violation of the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

He explained that apart from societal stigma, PLWHAs also indulge in self stigma which effectively perpetuates the cycle of stigma against the sufferers of the disease.

He said “let’s tackle stigma head-on, let’s think about the bigger picture, let’s think of Ghana without HIV/AIDS but let’s start small, wherever we are, let’s spread the message but let’s act now, it’s very important”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has indicated “stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is the main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor, to determine whether they have the disease or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world.”

The Ghana Health Service has developed an HIV/AIDS strategic plan for 2011-2015 to direct the implementation of the national response to HIV/AIDS in the next five years.

Commenting on the national strategic plan, Mr. Pwadura said the Commission will work hard in the upcoming years to reduce new infections by 50%, eliminate mother to child transmission, strengthen community response and health institutions and also tackle treatment as a very important component of the national response.

An HIV positive patient who was on the show shared his experience with living with the disease.

He said his wife was first diagnosed of the disease after several complaints of feeling weak. He was 37 years old then. He has no idea how the family contracted the disease.

Kwabena Adu [not his real name] said he contemplated suicide but encouraged himself that his life was worth something once he kept taking the anti retroviral drugs.

“When my wife died and people asked for the reason, I said she died of typhoid fever. I don’t know why I did not disclose our status but I knew if I told them my wife died of AIDS, they would point fingers at me”, Kwabena Adu revealed sadly.

He said he became very emaciated at a point that people started to suspect he had AIDS, a disease that had killed his wife some seven years ago.

According to him, even though he faces stigmatization, it is not so terrible because he has not declared his status openly.

He said he left his job because the disease makes him weak and is now finding it difficult to cater for his two kids who have also contracted the disease. He was however quick to commend health professionals at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital who still dish out the anti-retroviral drugs to him though he has no money to pay.

Kwabena Adu encouraged patients to continue with their medication since it is the only way to ensure continuous strength.

Since HIV/AIDS was discovered in Ghana in 1986 with an initial 42 recorded cases, a lot of efforts have gone into tackling the spread of the disease but the prevalence rate however peaked in 2003 to a high of 3.6%. The situation has however been on the decline prompting the United Nations to delist the country from the list of endemic countries.

Statistics indicate that adult prevalence reduced to 1.6% in 2010 from 1.9% in 2009. Prevalence among women who sought anti natal care was 2.9% in 2009 but came down to 2.0% in 2010.

An area of interest to the Commission is the critical age group of between 15 and 24 whose prevalence reduced from a high of 2.1% in 2009, to 1.5% in 2010.

On a regional basis, the Eastern region still has a higher than national average prevalence rate of 3.2%.

Currently there are 230,000 people between the ages of 15 and 39 living with AIDS in the country with women constituting more than 60%.

30% of all babies born to HIV mothers in Ghana are positive.

Globally the call is to have a zero transmission of the HIV virus from mother-to-child but Ghana is targeting a reduction of 25% from the current figure of 30%.

According to Mr. Pwadura, out of 315,000 women who have been screened so far, 9000 of them tested positive.

He said the Commission is doing all it can to end the stigmatization. To this end, the Commission is sending out two forms of messages, one to empower persons with HIV/AIDS to stand up for themselves and the second to educate society on the mode of transmission of the disease.

The Communications Manager added that 80% of all infections are through the exchange of bodily fluids, 15% of infections are also through mother-to-child transmissions and the remaining 5% is through contact with infected blood products such as blood transfusions.

It is estimated that globally, 6.6 million AIDS patients are on anti-retroviral drugs but 9.4 million still lack access to the drugs.

Health experts say 30,000 new infections are recorded daily among the youth between 15 and 24 years. They contend that access to the ARV’s must be scaled up in Ghana if the goal of eliminating the disease by 2020 can be achieved.

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