Bring back the fire of HIV/AIDS education!

HIV/AIDS began to be a crisis in the early 1980s, particularly in 1981 when cases were considered mysterious illness infecting gay men in urban areas in the United States.

In 1982 the disease got its first mention in the New York Times as having affected 335 people and killing 136 of them and by the end of the year, cases had been reported in a number of European countries.

By the end of 1985, there were more than 20,000 reported cases of AIDS, with at least one case in every region of the world.

Every nation that recorded cases began adopting ways to fight it, including collaborations and having specialised institutions to coordinate all related programmes and projects.

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Ghana reported its first case in March 1986 and by the end of the year, its cases had reached 26 and growing such that by the end of 1987, the increase was 35 per cent and rapidly hit 600 per cent in 1988.

The country established the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) to be in charge of its AIDS affairs.

The supra-ministerial and multi-sectoral body, established

under the Chairmanship of the President of the Republic, .yesterday launched together its 20th anniversary and this year’s World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day is commemorated on December 1 annually and the GAC intends to have its anniversary coincide with the day this year even though the GAC was established in January 2002.

The twin event is important because it, at least, reminds Ghanaians of the fact that the dreadful Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic is still around so that they would not let down their guard and contract it for all the risks, including death.

The foregone sentence emanates from the fact that the noise about HIV/AIDS during its early decade and the seriousness to observe its safety protocol have died down and it currently seems the disease has been eradicated.

It must be noted that the virus causing the disease is as dangerous as ever except that medical science has provided ways to avoid or manage it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) records that some 38 million people were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2019 and 940,000 people (almost a million) died from it that year.

The global health organisation adds that since its detection up to 2021, the pandemic had infected over 84 million people worldwide and claimed over 40 million lives and that sub-Saharan Africa remains the most severely affected region, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the world’s current HIV cases.

Certain conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, chief among them high-risk behaviours like wishing away diseases, attributing diseases to spiritual causes and having indiscriminate and unprotected sex, are to blame for the thriving of all manner of diseases in the region.

The Ghana AIDS Commission says high-risk behaviours have become increasingly pervasive in the Ghanaian society, making prevention measures least respected by individuals.

Thus, Ghana continues to record new infections, averaging 21,000 annually over the last five years, with adolescent girls and young women accounting for 20per cent of total new infections in 2021 alone.

This is dangerous because these are persons in their active sex and reproductive phase of life and can easily infect their male partners and unborn babies.

In the circumstances, the best bet for the Ghana AIDS Commission is to reignite the fire that ensured some compliance of AIDS prevention measures in the past and stoke it in order to beat its current achievements.

This is important as COVID-19 seems to be taking all the attention, creating the risk of leaving the handling of other deadly diseases to chance.

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