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01.12.2002 Feature Article

Today marks the World's AIDS Day.

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As the world reflect on this dreaded disease which has no known cure, figures released by the United Nations indicate that 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. The same report stated that more than 3 million people died of AIDS this year. There is no doubt that HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate with 14,000 people infected daily with the disease. Talking about HIV/AIDS brings to mind the situation in Ghana. There are several non-governmental agencies that have devoted their resources and time to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The past 10 years has seen the spread of HIV/AIDS at a steady pace in Ghana. It is estimated that 360,000 adults and children in Ghana are infected with HIV/AIDS. Currently 200 people are infected with the HIV virus daily. About 4.6% of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with the virus. Already there are 160,000 AIDS orphans in Ghana. If present trends continue 236,000 children would be orphaned by the year 2014. Statistics however indicate that regular campaigns can reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
A visit to Ghana reveals how campaigns against the spread of HIV/AIDS infection have been intensified, with the media playing a much more effective role than before.
However, these campaigns have mainly been targeted at the adult population with students virtually left out of the picture. Statistics also show that none of the campaigns has been specifically targeted at high schools and college students.
Currently Ghana has 12,130 primary schools, 5450 junior secondary schools, 503 senior secondary schools, 18 technical institutions, 21 teacher-training colleges and 10 universities. Available statistics indicate the school enrolment in Ghana totals almost 2 million. The breakdown of enrolment is as follows;
Primary Schools - 1.3 million
Junior Secondary Schools - 489,000
Senior Secondary Schools - 107,600
Technical Schools - 21,280
Teacher Training Schools - 11,300
Universities/Colleges - 5,600
Students are the future leaders of Ghana, therefore they should be included in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
For Ghana to make any meaningful headway in her fight against HIV/AIDS, it is imperative that students are included in all aspects of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
If students get the message on HIV/AIDS and make healthy lifestyle choices, they will in turn disseminate the information among their peers, parents, siblings and other relatives.
Non-governmental organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS prevention in Ghana should therefore endeavour to promote the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices among students in Ghana.
Quarterly workshops and symposia on HIV/AIDS prevention should be held in high schools and colleges. At these workshops and symposia student participants should be encouraged to exchange ideas on how best to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Teachers and student leaders should also be given honorarium to help spread the message on HIV/AIDS infection at school campuses.
Two hundred able-bodied Ghanaians are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus every single day. If current trends continue approximately 73,000 people will be infected annually.
The need to step up the campaign against the spread of this deadly virus has never been more urgent. Ghana faces the grim possibility of losing its most important economic resource, its youth, to HIV/AIDS.
Available statistics indicate that 125 people in Ghana will die daily by the year 2009 if the rate of HIV/AIDS infection continues at the current trend.
About 63% of HIV/AIDS cases recorded in Ghana are females and this has serious social and economic implications on the country. And with the upsurge of HIV in Ghana, there has been a rapid rise in Tuberculosis (TB).
Currently Ghana is ranked 133rd in the world human development index. With the Gross National Product per capita of merely $390.00, this makes Ghana one of the world’s poorest countries. Ghana is also ranked 143rd in terms of infant mortality per 1,000 live births. Applying scarce economic resources to HIV/AIDS prevention has proven virtually impossible.
Even though the HIV/AIDS situation in Ghana is alarming, it is not necessarily hopeless. That is why more needs to be done to get the message of HIV/AIDS prevention to schools and colleges in Ghana. EMMANUEL SIISI QUAINOO PRESIDENT, BRIDGING THE GAP FOUNDATION, INC


Emmanuel Siisi Quainoo
Emmanuel Siisi Quainoo, © 2002

The author has 7 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: EmmanuelSiisiQuainoo

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