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07.12.2009 Health

10,000 people have AIDS in U/E Region… Residents terrified over revelation

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RESIDENTS in the Upper East Region were terrified when the Regional Director of the Ghana Health Services (GHS), Dr. John Koku Awoonor Williams, made a terrifying revelation that about 10,000 people in the region are living with HIV/AIDS.

According to the Director, health records in the region show that the HIV prevalence rate was 2.0 %, thus exceeding the national prevalence rate of 1.7%

In a speech read for him in Bolgatanga on Tuesday to mark the World AIDS Day in Bolgatanga, Dr. Awoonor-Williams further revealed that the Kassena-Nankana East District tops the region's prevalence rate with a 2.8% recorded number of infections.

The event was on the theme; Universal Access and Human Rights.”

He said, according to estimates, there were now 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide, with 2.1 million people dying from disease, 70% of which are from Sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, the epidemic is generalised.

The total HIV population in 2009 was estimated at 241,000, with annual deaths of 17,000 and 136,000 orphans occurring.

Dr. Awoonor-Williams said there were 24 associations of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs), with a membership of 1,560. The members, who are supported with funds from Global Fund, carry out monthly meetings and socialisation programmes to promote positive living among them.

He said six hospitals in the region were providing anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs to patients, while plans were far advanced to open six additional HIV satellite clinics to increase access to the PLWHAs.

Meanwhile, 100 health facilities are providing Counseling and Testing and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV services in the region. Dr. Awoonor-Williams indicated that millions of people continue to be infected with HIV every year, and explained that less than half of those who were in need of the ARVs therapy were receiving it, while the majority had no access to adequate treatment, care and support.

He mentioned distance, cost of travel, non- availability of transport, poverty, and host of other factors, as some of the impediments that do not permit HIV/AIDS patients in the country, especially those in his region, to access ARVs.

Dr. Awoonor-Williams urged the people in the region to go for voluntary counseling and testing, to know their HIV/AIDS status, to be able to sustain and prolong their lifespans.

When this reporter sought the views of some people on the prevalence rate of the disease after the programme, they claimed that though they were aware that the prevalence rate of the disease was high in the region, they never thought it was as high as revealed by the Health Director.

“In fact, if what the man has said is anything to go by, then it is a disaster that is looming. I was scared, and still scared to hear this, and I think it calls for serious attention from all of us to fight this disaster before it strikes,” one of them lamented.

One of the respondents, who gave her name as Linda, accused her male counterparts of being the ones who spread the disease so fast, by intentionally infecting their female counterparts with it.

“There are some irresponsible men, who go about infecting innocent young girls, especially school girls with HIV,” she stressed.

The celebration, which started in the early hours of Tuesday, saw students, associations and some security agencies march through the principal streets of Bolgatanga with placards, some of which read: 'Stop AIDS, love life', 'Attack the disease not the victim,' and 'AIDS attacks the body, stigmatization attacks the spirit.'

The Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Woyongo, urged the people to do away with condemnation, since it gives rise to stigmatisation and discrimination, thereby creating panic among the infected and affected persons and families, and consequently hasten them to premature death.

Mr. Woyongo stated that the government was concerned about the spread of the disease, and was therefore highly committed to fighting it, because it constitutes a threat to the socio-economic development of the country.

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