Mr Paul Evans Aidoo, Western Regional Minister, on Tuesday called on the Regional AIDS Committee to formulate specific programmes that would engage oil investors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the Region.
He made the call in an address read for him at a HIV/AIDS Stakeholders workshop on the theme, "The Emerging Challenges of HIV and AIDS as a Result of the Oil Find and the Proliferation of Hot Spots in the Region" at Takoradi.
Mr Aidoo urged all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to collaborate effectively with the Regional AIDS Committee and other implementing agencies to enable them implement, monitor and evaluate their activities.
He also asked stakeholders in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS to accept the challenge to support the programmes and activities of the Regional AIDS Committee to reduce the prevalence rate of the disease in the region.
Mr Aidoo said there was the possibility that the prevalence rate in the region would increase this year as a result of the oil find.
He said there was the need to undertake proper dissemination of information on HIV and design programmes and activities that would help confront the challenge holistically.
Mr Aidoo said currently indications were that a lot of hot spots were springing up in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis especially in anticipation of a boom in all kinds of business activities, due to the influx of oil investors.
He said this would increase the activities of Female Sex Workers (FSW) as well as Men having Sex with Men (MSM), drinking bars and hotel operators.
Mr Aidoo said in 2004, the regional prevalence rate of was recorded as 4.7 per cent and in 2005 it reduced to 3.2 per cent, adding that it however increased to 4.3 per cent in 2006 and with the relentless efforts by Community Based Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, District Assemblies and other agencies, it diminished to 3.2 per cent in 2007.
"Meanwhile, some of the sentinel sites in the region namely Sekondi-Takoradi, Sefwi Asafo, Tarkwa and Eikwe, recorded 4.6 per cent, 1.9 per cent, 2.6 per cent, and 3.8 per cent respectively, indicating decreases of the prevalence rate except Sekondi-Takoradi which increased from 3.0 per cent to 4. 6 per cent", he said.
Mr Aidoo said in 2008, the total number of HIV positive clients reported in the region was 2,822 as against 1,278 in 2007 and out of this, 1, 404 people made up 184 male and 465 female adults as well as 12 male and 24 female children were registered for Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
He said by December 2008, the total number of reported HIV/AIDS related deaths was 49 while the accumulated number of reported deaths from 2006 to 2008 was 108.
Mr David Yaro, Chief Director of the Regional Coordinating Council, in an address read for him said if appropriate intervention activities are not undertaken at workplaces and enterprises level, the effect of HIV/AIDS on productivity would be enormous to bear.
He said fear and ignorance of the disease tend to cause discrimination and disrupt work and employee productivity at the time when the competitive global work demands nothing less than total efficiency and outstanding performance.
Mr Yaro said management of institutions and enterprises are required to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on their workers especially as it is reflected in such psychological manifestations as anger, depression, fear of the unknown, panic, blame, demoralization and loss of direction, denial and tendencies resulting from stress.
He said "I urge all to formulate workplace policies and ensure that they are implemented to the benefit of their staff".
Dr Linda Vanotoo, Regional Director of Health, expressed concern about increase in cases of Men having Sex with Men and said this could thwart efforts to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
She said adults and young people are engaged in the practice and called on parents to instil good values in their children to help curb the practice.