First Lady Joins Crusade On HIV

?????????????????????????????The First Lady, Mrs. Lordina Dramani Mahama, has entreated Ghanaians to join in the fight against the Human Immune Virus (HIV) by working together to ensure that HIV positive women, who become pregnant, do not pass on the infection to their children.

The elimination of HIV and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) infections in Ghana she said also required intensified efforts on the part of health authorities and stakeholders by providing the human resource capacity and logistics where necessary.

The first lady was speaking in a speech read on her behalf by the Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur at a durbar held in Accra on Monday to commemorate the celebration of the World Aids Day (WAD) in Accra.

“As a nation, we have set ourselves the target of reducing mother-to child-transmission of HIV by over 95%, by the end of 2015 and by 2015 no baby born to an HIV positive mother will be infected,” she said.

Touching on the global theme for this year’s World Aids day celebration, “Close the Gap”, the first lady entreated Ghanaians to ensure that HIV services reach everybody in every corner of the country, and that, no one is left behind.

The national theme for the celebration in Ghana is, “Ghana towards an HIV-free generation through prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, safe sex and stigma reduction.”

The national theme according to her was relevant to Ghana as a nation because it draws attention to three specific areas that must be focussed on.

Mrs. Mahama observed that more than 80 percent of HIV infections in the country were through unprotected sex, hence the need to focus on safe sex.

“We must ensure that, efforts at educating the public on safe sex practices do not wane and be careful to provide the right mix of appropriate prevention commodities, such as condoms and lubricants, and make them accessible and affordable to the majority of our people,” he said .

She also tasked the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) to intensify the “Protect the Goal” campaign among the youth even though the World Cup is over.

“This way, we can reduce further the national HIV prevalence rate from 1.3%; and reduce new infections, especially among our youth, young girls and other exposed populations,” she said.

She further called on all and sundry do away with stigma saying “Stigma and discrimination continue to be one of the main barriers hampering efforts at HIV testing; it prevents people from disclosing their status, and obstructs access to treatment and care services”.

According to the first lady, it was gratifying to note that stigma against persons with HIV is reducing.

She said a close look at the results, by a study conducted revealed for example, how some are still excluded from social functions, including community and religious activities saying, “This is not acceptable!!”

She disclosed that government in the coming year would support the GAC’s activities towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

She said the national HIV response has achieved a lot of successes with the HIV and AIDS infection rate dropping from 3.6 percent to 1.3 per cent over the decade.

“There has been a steady decline in prevalence among several groups including our Youth, pregnant women, Female sex workers and men who have sex with men. Treatment coverage for people living with HIV is now at 60 per cent,” she said.

She further urged   every couple to test and know their HIV status and encouraged women to examine their breasts regularly for lumps, and visit their health centres for cervical and breast cancer screening.

She said the national response to HIV and AIDS has been severely challenged due to inadequate finances to meet the ever-growing demand for services.

Mrs. Mahama called on every Ghanaian to donate a cedi every month through your church, mosque or workplace to support the work of the Ghana AIDS Commission, to help eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

By Linda Aryeetey

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