Wa, April 2 GNA - Figures made available at a workshop on Gender and HIV/AIDS at Wa showed a high prevalence of the disease at Nandom in the Lawra District of the Upper West Region. Out of 812 people that voluntarily donated blood to the Nandom Hospital in 2003 samples from 75 of them tested positive for the disease when they were screened. This alarming infection rate in the area has, however, been
attributed to its proximity to Burkina Faso on the contrary, blood samples of all the 192 people, who donated blood to the Tumu Hospital in the Sissala District during the same period were free from the disease. Mr Sahanun Mogtari, Upper West Regional Minister, gave these figures when he opened the workshop that was organised for traditional rulers and women leaders in the Region.
At the Jirapa Hospital, 17 out of 1,092 donors were infected with the virus while Lawra Hospital recorded five HIV/AIDS cases from 192 people who voluntarily donated blood during the period. Mr Mogtari said figures from the Regional Hospital at Wa showed that 91 blood samples had the virus out of a total of 1,973 donors last year. He noted that most of these blood donors were usually the youth and, therefore, called for collective efforts to fight the continued spread of the disease.
The workshop, which had the theme: "Stepping up HIV/AIDS Prevention from a Gender Perspective - The Role of Chiefs and Women Leaders" was organised by the UN System Gender Programme in collaboration with the National Council for Women and Development (NCWD). The two-day workshop sought to strengthen the commitment of Chiefs and Women Leaders to fight against HIV/AIDS and identify strategies on follow-up activities to be implemented by them.
Mr Mogtari urged Chiefs to encourage voluntary testing; counselling those living with the disease and educate the people to stop stigmatising and discriminating against victims. They must also work to reduce socio-cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, widowhood inheritance, which all contributed to the spread of the disease.
Mrs Susan Osam, an official of the UN System Gender Programme, said by the end of 2001, nearly 58 per cent of HIV/AIDS positive adults in Sub-Saharan Africa were women. She said the issue of how to get men to reduce their high-risk behavioural practices such as multiple sex partners and extra marital activities should engage the attention of all those engaged in the fight against the disease.
Mrs Care Bob-Milliar, Regional Co-ordinator of NCWD, said forced early marriages for girls, wife inheritance and other traditional practices were exposing women to HIV infection in the Region.