Accra, April 10, GNA- The Ambassadors of the United States and the Netherlands to Ghana last week, opened a training programme for companies that were planning and implementing HIV/AIDS policies at their workplaces. A joint statement issued in Accra on Saturday by the two embassies said the one-day programme, which was held on Wednesday April 7, 2004, was designed to give practical advice to companies that are starting HIV/AIDS treatment programmes for their employees.
Several companies with HIV/AIDS policies already in place, including Unilever and Coca-Cola Company, participated in the programme. The statement said Mrs. Mary Carlin Yates, the US Ambassador to Ghana who outlined the US Mission's HIV/AIDS policy, noted that the policy, which covers approximately 400 Mission employees and their families, offered counselling, voluntary testing and treatment for those who tested positive. She stressed that no US Mission employee's appointment could be terminated because of his or her HIV/AIDS status, adding, " We cannot let HIV/AIDS nullify the important gains Ghana has made in private sector development", in reference to the importance of HIV/AIDS workplace policies in Ghana.
Mr Van der Wiel, Netherlands's Ambassador to Ghana stated that it was the private company, Heinekens that stimulated the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to design its HIV/AIDS workplace policy and programme.
He said large corporations had taken the lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS, adding that public/private partnerships could make a difference in successfully combating the disease.
The statement said Ambassador Wiel noted that Ghana and Rwanda were the first two African nations to benefit from the joint undertaking. Since 1998, the US government has contributed an average of 4.5 million Dollars yearly through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fighting HIV/AIDS in Ghana, the statement said.
USAID's activities had included behaviour change programmes, promotion and distribution of condoms, health worker training, advocacy, policy development and laboratory support. This year the Mission is spending about seven million dollars on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support.
The Royal Netherlands Embassy stepped up its contribution of 1.3 million dollars annually to fighting HIV/AIDS since 2002 with focus on interventions in the private sector.
The programme also strengthened the multi-sectoral approach to combating the pandemic at district and community levels, particularly care and support for people living with the disease.
Additionally the Mission is spending 14.5 million dollars annually to strengthen the health sector by supporting Ghana's five-year Health programme, the statement added. 10 April 04