Widowhood inheritance, popularly called by-election a cultural practice in the Upper West Region that allows brothers of a deceased to marry his widow after the funeral rites of the deceased, is said to be one of the major causes of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Jirapa and Lambussie districts.
A Senior Nursing Officer in charge of Public Health for Jirapa, Cecilia Kakariba revealed this during the launching ceremony of the Ghana Congress on Evangelization (GHACOE) Women's Ministry HIV/AIDS project.
The project with financial support from the Ghana AIDS Commission seeks to intensify education to help reduce the spread of the disease in the two districts in particular and the region as a whole.
Under the project, the public would be sensitized on how to avert contracting the disease and provide and support through skills training people living with HIV/AIDS to lead self-supporting lives, among others.
As at the close of December last year, 203 HIVI AIDS cases were recorded in the region comprising 99 males and 104 females representing a prevalence rate of 3.3 per cent.
About 149 cases have been recorded as at June this year made up of 76 and 173 male and females respectively.
The Wa Municipality has the highest prevalence rate of 5.8 per cent in the region with Nadowli and Jirapa recording prevalence rates of t.9 and 1.4 percent respectively.
Mrs Kakariba said the scramble by brothers to inherit their deceased brothers' widows without knowing the cause of death which has earned the'term 'by-election' was contributing significantly to the spread of HIV/AIDs as some die of the disease.
A Senior Nursing Officer said if the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS is to be won then the people must say no to the cultural practice of widowhood inheritance.
She called on district assemblies to dialogue with traditional rulers as a matter of urgency and abolish the practice to help curb the spread of the HJV/AIDS menace.
Mrs Kakariba also mentioned Female Genital Mutilation and the giving of tribal marks as other sources spreading HIV/AIDS since instruments used are not sterilized before usage on others.
She said the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS was a social and development challenge that 'requires the collective responsibility of all and should not be left in the hands of health personnel alone.
Mrs Kakariba said behaviour change communication is being intensified by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to help reduce the spread of the disease.
She said voluntary counselling and testing is also being encouraged in all health facilities to -enable people to know to their status and conduct themselves properly by leading morally upright lives to help reduce the spread of HIV/A IDS.
The Regional Director of the GHANGE Women's Ministry, Reverend (Mrs) Elizabeth Ayambilla said her organisation has been involved in skills training programmes such as soap making, cosmetics, ornaments, batik, tie and dye agriculture, food processing, provision of care to the vulnerable and HIV/AIDS education programmes.
Reverend Ayambilla said her outfit would intensify its education of the people especially women at the rural community level to appreciate the dangers of contracting the deadly disease since as she put it "women appear to be more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS than men".
She said another dimension is the high number of children who have been orphaned by the disease, adding "these children have basic needs, which need to be met by the family and society".
Reverend Ayambilla therefore made a passionate appeal to district assemblies to go to the aid of such children by supporting them to develop their full potentials and contribute to national development
The Regional Director commended the Ghana AIDS C0!l1mission for supporting the GHACOE Women's Ministry HIV/AIDS project and promised to put the resource to prudent and judicious use for the intended purpose.
Launching the project, the District Chief Executive for Jirapa, Justin Dakorah, spoke against stigmatization and name-calling of people living with HIVI AIDS saying," they need our support, care and attention."
Mr Dakorah said it is not uncommon to find landlords ejecting HIV/AIDS patients from their homes, families abandoning their own kith and kin and even employers dismissing HIV/AIDS patients from their places of work.
"If these things continue, how would they eat? Are we not driving them too early to their graves?" he asked and called for change of attitude towards HIVI AIDS patients to enable them live longer.