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29.11.2007 Health

People living with HIV/AIDS want ART covered by NHIS

By gna

Despite the huge threat that HIV/AIDS posed to society, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has not covered the anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

Mr. Belu Emmanuel, a member of the National Association of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (NAPLWHA), said this at an HIV/AIDS forum at Jirapa on Tuesday and called for free universal access to ART treatment.

He said people living with the virus who are covered by the NHIS only have their opportunistic infections such as diarrhea, fever and cough treated free of charge.

They therefore have to pay five Ghana Cedis for the ART on monthly basis, an amount many of them are unable to afford resulting in their premature deaths.

Mr. Emmanuel appealed to the government to make available the ART at all health centres for persons living with the virus.

ActionAid Ghana, an NGO, organised the forum for the more than 100 members of the Association of Women Living With HIV/AIDS (AWLWA) in the Upper West Region.

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (NFPA) sponsored the forum to enable the AWLWAs to interact with the Upper West Regional Minister, Mr. George Hikah Benson, to find out some of the challenges facing them.

Mr. Emmanuel said the region had registered 385 persons living with the virus, out of which 80 per cent are jobless, 10 per cent are in between, five per cent are petty traders and five per cent are gainfully employed.

Madam Marceline N-babang-yel, a member of the Association, expressed regret that the virus was spreading very fast among women in the region and said: "It is believed that out of every 10 people reported to be infected with HIV/AIDS seven are women".

She mentioned widow inheritance, forced marriages and the inability of women to negotiate for safe sex as some of the factors causing the spread of the disease among the women.

"Stigmatization and discrimination among persons living with the disease is high and unbearable", she lamented.

Madam N-babang-yel appealed to the government and civil society organisations to support HIV/AIDS groups with finances to undertake income-generating activities such farming, trading, weaving and sewing as well as soap and bread making.

Mr. Benson pleaded with the associations to prevail on their members not to spread the virus intentionally but to help in the fight against its spread.

"Avail yourselves as ambassadors in the fight against the virus and not ambassadors for the spread of the virus", he advised.

Mr. Benson said he would collaborate with the district assemblies for support for the HIV/AIDS groups to make them to live decent lives.

Most of the women who attended the forum were married women some of them with babies while others were also pregnant.

Ghana News Agency investigations revealed that their husbands had migrated to the south and neighbouring countries during the dry seasons to look for menial jobs and contracted the virus.

Mr. Benson later donated millet, rice, mats and cooking oil to the associations.