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12.08.2004 Regional News

WHO to assist Eastern Region fight HIV/AIDS

By GNA

Koforidua, Aug. 12, GNA - The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to assist the Eastern Region to implement a one-year project to offer care and support to persons infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS with a one-million-dollar Dutch government grant.

Under the project, each of the 15 districts in the region would receive 57,000 dollars to embark on institutional support for health facilities, including the training of health personnel in Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT), capacity building and the provision of food supplements and income-generation ventures for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs).

Mr Napoleon Graham of the WHO office in Accra announced this when introducing the project at a sensitisation meeting on scaling up of District Response Initiative (DRI) Care and Support component for those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in the Eastern Region at Koforidua on Thursday.

About 100 participants including traditional rulers, District Co-ordinating Directors, District Health Administrators, the clergy, NGOs and association of PLWHAs, attended the meeting.

Mr Graham said the project was the second in a three-year programme after the implementation of a similar one in the Ashanti Region last year.

Dr Morkor Newman also of the WHO office, said after the one-year period, the district assemblies would be expected to continue to fund it by using one per cent of their Common Fund, adding that the Catholic Relief Agency (CRA) would also come to the region to assist orphans and other affected persons of the pandemic soon.

Earlier in an opening address read for him, the Eastern Regional Deputy Minister, Mr Gustav Narh Dormetey commended intervention of the WHO and the Royal Dutch Embassy for the gesture and noted that bringing the project to the region was not only "timely but also appropriate", taking into consideration the "fearful statistics the region has recorded over the past years."

According to him, the 2002 national sentinel surveillance report indicated that, the Eastern Region placed first with 7.9 per cent, with Koforidua and Agormanya recording 8.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent respectively.

In the 2003 report, the Fanteakwa District, for the first time, also recorded 6.6 per cent, while Agormanya had 9.2 per cent and the number of PLWHAs in each of the districts had increased considerably with each of them having over 200 persons, he added.

Mr Dormetey decried reports of stigmatisation and discriminations against them, while some landlords allegedly eject tenants because of their HIV/AIDS status.

The Eastern Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira referred to the statistics in the region, which indicated that the 2000 HIV cases of 2002 rose to 2,500 in 2003 while the zero surveillance rate remained the highest in the country at 7.6 per cent.

Describing the situation as "seeming to be fighting a losing battle", he noted that despite huge sums being spent on various intervention programmes "what is strange is that, the stigma still remains high as couples refuse to tell their spouses."

The Eastern Regional HIV/AIDS Co-ordinator, Dr Sampson Ofori, who gave the overview of the disease in the region while the Regional Focal Person for DRI, Ms Golda Asante briefed the meeting of the interventions being implemented in the fight against the disease.

The Vice-Chairman of the Regional AIDS Committee, Nene Narh Dawutey Ologo VI, who chaired the meeting, stressed the need for intensive collaboration by all stakeholders towards minimising the spread of the disease as well as care and support for PLWHAs. 12 Aug. 04

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