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14.11.2008 Health

World AIDS Day launched in Accra

The Presidential Advisor on HIV AIDS and Reproductive Health, Professor F.T. Sai, has called on those vying for the presidency in this year's general election to design practical ways of controlling population growth in the country.

"No country in the world has achieved rapid development with a population growth of more than two per cent," he said.

Professor Sai, who made the call at the launch of this year's World AIDS Day in Accra, said the country's population growth presently stood at between 2.5 and 2.6 per cent and noted that it behoved on those aspiring to lead the country to take that into serious consideration if they were to achieve their development agenda lined up for the country.

This year's World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1, will be on the theme, "Leadership, Reducing Stigma and Discrimination" .

In Ghana, the target for this year's celebration is to enhance and advocate for leadership and accountability to address the HIV epidemic in Ghana at all levels by engaging everybody in decision making at the national, regional, district, community, family and individual levels; help to reduce stigma and discrimination and help increase counselling and testing services.

As part of the activities, the Ghana Aids Commission will sponsor a nation-wide HIV / AIDS campaign dubbed, "Know your status", which is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to encourage more people to avail themselves for voluntary testing.

Professor Sai said issues about women were critical and that no leadership at the governmental level, for instance, needed to toy with them because of the peculiar role women played in national development.

In a speech read on his behalf, Vice-President Aliu Mahama said, "Ghana, fortunately, is still not as badly affected as some sister African countries. However, the disease has claimed a cumulative death of about 200,000 Ghanaians and this is stark warning to us that if we do not prevent it now, many more lives will be lost without treatment."

Alhaji Mahama stressed the need for the introduction of measures to improve access to care for the infect┬Čed and increase awareness of HIV related burden that was usually shouldered by women, girls and the aged.

The Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Prof Sakyi Awuku Amoa, in an address, said the commission was conscious of the fact that the country had not been able to achieve much in the area of behavioural change and called for more support from all.

He said the government continued to give attention to the low prevalence rate of the infection in the country, saying so far all district hospitals provided anti-retroviral therapy for PLHIV across the country.

The United Nations (UN) Resident Co-ordinator, Mr Daouda Toure, in a statement, said stigmatisation could not be reduced in the country without the active involvement of "our leaders, Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), the media, other key stakeholders and society as a whole".

The Chief of the USAID Health Office, Ms Bethanne Moskov, in a statement, also called on the need for people to treat PLHIV with more dignity and respect, saying it was the only way that the epidemic could be fought.

The President of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA), Mrs Cecelia Senoo, together with the President of the National Association of Positive Persons (NAP+), Mr Clement Azigiwe, called for commitment on the part of the leaders of the country to ensure that the rights of PLHIV were not infringed upon.