160,000 children orphaned by AIDS
More than 160,000 children have so far been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The number is likely to rise to 236,000 by the year 2014 if the rate of infection remains at 3.6 per cent.
Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director General of Ghana Aids Commission (GAC), disclosed this at the opening of a two-day advocacy workshop on HIV/AIDS for the Council of Independent Churches of Ghana (CIC) in Accra.
It was among other things, aimed at making church leaders more aware of the status, trends and effects of the HIV/AIDS on the society with the ultimate objective of eliciting their commitment.
Professor Amoa said that the situation was “alarming” because those orphans might not have the necessary education they needed to become responsible people in the country. This may lead to orphan being wayward and indulging in social vices.
The Director General said about 63 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases recorded in Ghana was a female and this had serious social and economic implications on the nation. “Increased rate of HIV/AIDS will no doubt affect the population structure which is youthful and threaten the labour of our industries,” he said.
He added that Ghana’s industries would begin to see an increase in their health bills due to ill health arising from the infection and subsequent deaths. Professor Amoa expressed concern about the way society treated HIV/AIDS patients differently from any other patients.
“What is worrying is that, while the society has put a stigma on people living with HIV/AIDS, as “immoral individuals”, the tendency for faith based organisations to exclude such individuals has aggravated,” he said. According to him, it was this attitude of stigmatisation and discrimination against the HIV/AIDS victims that had compounded the problem.
He explained that once the victims went underground and had their HIV/AIDS status, they got the chance to infect more people, which eventually “will increase the rate. Professor Amoa therefore appealed to religious bodies to take concrete steps in their organisations by establishing HIV/AIDS committees to deal with the menace.
Reverend Samuel Teye Doku, President of CIC, said religious leaders must play a crucial role in combating the epidemic because everyone was at risk of contracting the disease. As religious leaders, he said, the implication of AIDS demanded “we should become more fully involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”