Workplace HIV Testing Launched

Nii Armah AshitteyA project, dubbed ‘Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) at Work Initiative,’ has been launched in Accra. It aims at offering voluntary counselling and human immune virus (HIV) testing to five million workers by 2015.

The programme was  initiated  by International Labour Organisation(ILO) and the United Nations Programme against AIDS (UNAIDS) in collaboration with the Ghana Aids Commission.

It would be organised according to the tenets of the National Strategic Plan which aims at reducing HIV-related deaths and eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015.

The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Nii Armah Ashietey, who launched the programme, said the project came at the right time because Ghana was poised to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 6, towards combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

He said Ghana’s aim of becoming a full middle income nation by 2015 would not be attained if large sections of the population died of AIDS.

“The epidemic strikes hard at the most vulnerable groups in society which brings about problems of poverty and inadequate social protection,” he said, and added that HIV AIDS also impacted negatively on labour through increased bills for recruitment and training, loss of skilled labour and competent workforce, reduce productivity, absenteeism of workers with the disease and affected the financial situation of families and community.

“It is for the achievement of our developmental goals that I consider this initiative very relevant and timely as it touches on the issues of extending HIV treatment which is a prevention strategy to protect our workforce,” the Minister said.

He commended the organisers of the programme and assured of the ministry’s continuous support  Mrs Ofori-Asumadu, National Programme Coordinator of ILO AIDS, said the programme would facilitate access to treatment for those who tested positive to the disease.
She said the initiative would enhance the capacity of governments, employers and workers to strengthen the institutional support for the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS.

“The initiative will contribute to achieving the global target set in the 2011 and political declaration on HIV and AIDS, of reaching 15 million people with HIV treatment by 2015,”she stated.

Mrs Ofori-Asumadu advised employers not to deny workers living with HIV and their dependants health care. She said workers with HIV should not be discriminated against; rather measures such as occupational insurance schemes should be put in place to the benefit of their dependants.

Mr Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, Acting Director of Technical Services of the Ghana AIDS Commission, who represented Dr Angela El Adas, Director-General of the GAC, urged the public to go for the test so as to know their HIV status in order to manage their lives better. By Anita Nyarko  

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