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09.06.2004 General News

AIDS draft Policy now before Cabinet

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Accra, June 9, GNA - Draft Policy to protect persons living with HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and to address issues affecting them is awaiting Cabinet's endorsement. The policy would also put in measures to combat any further spread of HIV/AIDS and to reduce the current prevalence rate of 3. 6 per cent to the barest minimum.

Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), told the Ghana News Agency at the end of a two-day symposium, in Accra for members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons on HIV/AIDS.

The symposium gave participants an in-depth knowledge about the situation and the role they have to play in giving quality treatment and help to reduce the spread of the menace

Prof Amoa said the stakeholders including the Ministry of Health had studied the draft and all the necessary inputs had been made. The policy would address issues such as behavioural change communication, blood screening and testing, home self-testing, treatment, mother to child transmission, young people and HIV/AIDS, gender and AIDS and legal and ethical issues.

"Wilful and negligent transmission, the use of traditional medicine, AIDS education in schools, human rights, treatment and care, and research have all been captured in the policy," he said.

Other areas include the creation of appropriate environment through advocacy, to ensure sustained political commitment and support for effective action against HIV/AIDS/STIs.

Prof Amoa said the policy when passed into law would also ensure that access to social and economic opportunities remained open to people living with AIDS without any discrimination or stigmatisation. He said the draft, which should have been presented to Parliament last March, was drafted two years ago, adding it was not passed immediately because of some lapses that were noticed.

He said access to antiretroviral drugs, care for orphans and home based care were some of the missing issues identified by stakeholders and "these have been addressed to fill in the missing gaps".

On the issue of antiretroviral drugs, Professor Amoa said 6,000 patients would be put on the therapy within the next five years in four selected government hospitals after which it would be extended to all the hospitals in the Regions.

They are Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra; Atua Government Hospital, Somanya; Saint Martins, Agomanya and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi.

He said the Government had highly subsidised the antiretroviral drugs making the patients pay less adding: "Under normal circumstances, a patient should have spent 600 dollars per month on the drugs but now its costs only 50,000 cedis." He noted that the policy would also encourage employers and others to have positive attitude towards people living with the menace and keep them in productive employment for as long as they could be in active service. He called for commitment and co-operation of all stakeholders including the media to ensure that the policy was translated into action to fight the HIV/AIDS. 09 June 04