The Stigmatization of HIV/AIDS victims by the public is the cause of the rapid spread of the pandemic in Brong Ahafo, Mr Amos Adu Okyere, Brong-Ahafo Regional Programme Director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) has stated on Tuesday.
“People must not discriminate against persons living with the pandemic but rather embrace them and support them because the virus can infect anybody irrespective of their status,” the Regional Programme Director advised.
Mr Okyere was speaking at a durbar held to recognise 60 community-based HIV/AIDS volunteers at Ntotroso, near Kenyasi in Asutifi District of the Region.
He said in spite of the numerous educational campaigns by the government and relevant agencies the prevalence rate of the deadly disease in the region was on the ascendancy.
Mr Okyere explained that voluntary counselling and testing was very paramount in helping to minimize the spread of the pandemic and urged the public to undergo regular medical check-ups to determine their health status.
School dropouts, especially girls, fell prey to HIV/AIDS in the Asutifi District, he noted, and appealed to traditional authorities, assembly and unit committee members to support the volunteers.
“HIV/AIDS is a disease notably spread through sexual intercourse,” he said, and advised the public to change their behaviour towards indiscriminate sex.
The volunteers were each presented with a bicycle, certificate, and Wellington boots among other working tools to facilitate their work.
The Management of the Ahafo Mine Project of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) sponsored the training of the volunteers, drawn from 19 communities in Asutifi and 14 communities in the Tano North districts, to educate the people on sexually transmitted infections in their respective areas.
Mr Joseph Danso, Community Development Superintendent of NGGL, explained that the training of the volunteers demonstrated the company’s commitment to its social responsibilities as well as the importance it attached to the safety and health of its workforce and the communities.
He said NGGL had since 2008 partnered with the district health directorate of Asutifi and Tano North to select and train community-based volunteers as peer educators on sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
The volunteers have since August 2008 organised 350 group discussions with community members, 670 inter-personal sessions, and reached out to 1,847 females and 1,773 males.
“They have also referred 72 sexually transmitted infection cases to the various health centres,” Mr Danso added.
Mr Opoku Amoako, District Disease Control Officer, disclosed that as at the end of 2008, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS stood at six percent whilst tuberculosis was 27 percent.
He expressed concern about the spate of teenage pregnancies in the area, indicating that the district recorded 32 cases among girls who were less than 15 years last year.
Nana Adu Kwaku Ababio, Akwamuhene of Ntotroso, who presided, commended NGGL for its programmes aimed at helping to alleviate the plight of the communities within its catchments area and charged the volunteers to work hard to help enhance the health status of the people.
Mrs Maud Ofori-Nyaney, Health Coordinator at NGGL, advised students to concentrate on their books and eschew unhealthy practices that could ruin their lives.