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05.07.2004 General News

First time sexual encounter drops to 15 yrs - Research

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Accra, July 5, GNA - A survey conducted among the youth aged 15 to 49 in the Bole District of the Northern Region has revealed that over half of that population had their first sexual encounter between the ages of 15 to 19.

The survey conducted by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) and the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Northern Region revealed that out of the number, about 14.5 per cent had their first sexual encounter at the age of 15 years.

Ms Angela Bannerman, a Research Manager of PPAG who said this at a stakeholders' workshop on "Scaling Up of District Strategic Planning for HIV/AIDS" in Accra, said though it was normal for people to marry early in rural communities, the statistics also showed the chances of one acquiring HIV/AIDS at an early stage.

She said when respondents were asked what they were likely to do if they found out that they were HIV positive, 15 per cent stated that they would commit suicide, 10 per cent said they would go into hiding and 68 per cent saying they were willing to live with the situation.

Ms Bannerman said when it came to consistency in condom use, it was realised that 69 per cent of respondents had never used a condom. One-third respondents did not feel at risk to the HIV infection attributing reasons to their faithfulness to partners.

Sixty-four per cent were aware of voluntary counselling and testing with 60 per cent of respondents expressing willingness to undertake the test, she said.

Ms Bannerman said the objective for the survey was to determine baseline indicators of the disease among the normal population and high-risk groups within the district as a basis for designing interventions and measuring progress over time.

It was also to identify potential HIV/AIDS risk groups and their location for better targeting of intervention.

Mr Louis Agbe, Development Planning Officer, HIV/AIDS Focal Person, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development said lessons learned from the District Response Initiative (DRI) programme indicated that effective responses to HIV/AIDS programmes were people-driven and not community-driven.

"Technology, money and information can support but do not substitute for people-driven responses," he said.

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