Dr Mokowa Blay Adu Gyamfi
HIV and AIDS have become the leading cause of death in Africa, with a total of 15,116 Ghanaians killed by the disease in 2016, while 20,418 new infections were recorded, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) has said.
Of the new HIV infections, 17,375 representing 85 percent were made up of adults above 15 years and 3,043 consisting of children under 14.
In the same year, Ghana had an HIV prevalence rate of 1.62 percent, however, the prevalence rate among pregnant women was 2.4 percent.
This was made known by William Kwaku Yeboah, Central Regional Technical Coordinator of GAC, during an HIV and AIDS awareness walk organised by Central Regional Ghana Red Cross Society to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day on Saturday.
The celebration was on the global theme: ‘the right to health’ and a national theme: ‘the right to health: know your status, seek early treatment’.
The three hour walk, which brought together more than 500 schoolchildren, volunteers and staff of the Red Cross Society and the GAC, was to help raise awareness to combat HIV and AIDS in the region.
The participants displayed placards with the inscription: ‘protect your dream, protect yourself and your partner’, ‘it is your HIV status, seek early treatment’, ‘let us join hands to end AIDS by 2030’, ‘youth, sex abstinence is the best’, ‘say no to stigma and discrimination’, among others.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr Yeboah disclosed that a total of 2,339 new HIV infections were recorded in the Central Region in the year under review.
He was concerned that despite the high level of awareness on the disease among Ghanaians, personal risk perception was still low.
Mr Yeboah added that majority of the youth did not perceive themselves of being at risk and continued to engage in negative activities that put them at risk.
He admonished all HIV and AIDS working partners to maximise their efforts to facilitate faster positive behavioural change to reduce the rate of its infection and to ultimately reduce it to the barest minimum by 2030.
Mr Yeboah said HIV and AIDS remained an important obstacle to the socio-economic progress of the country and all must contribute towards achieving the long term goal to end AIDS by 2030.
John Aidoo, the Central Regional Manager of the Ghana Red Cross Society, stated that there was the need for Ghana to completely wipe out discrimination and stigmatisation of persons living with HIV because it is preventing people from getting tested or disclosing their status to relatives and partners.
He explained that the AIDS walk was to remind Ghanaians that the disease is still prevalent, and stressed the need to have an attitudinal change towards indulging in things that are likely to get people infected with the virus.
He said the Red Cross would continue to educate communities on the disease and encouraged Ghanaians to be bold to test to know their status.