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11.10.2004 Regional News

Judge calls for legal framework to protect rights of HIV/AIDS patients.

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Tamale, Oct. 11, GNA - An Appeal Court Judge, Mrs. Justice Sophia O.A. Adinyira has called for the establishment of a legal framework to protect the fundamental rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

She said because of stigmatization and discrimination associated with the pandemic, it was crucial to evolve a more congenial legal framework that would protect the fundamental human rights and good work ethics that were favourable to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Mrs. Justice Adinyira said this at the launch of the Judicial Service HIV/AIDS Preventive Education Programme for the Northern Zone in Tamale on Monday.

The Judicial Service contracted with the Ghana AIDS Commission to undertake a sub-project aimed at educating the staff of the service and those of their families about HIV/AIDS to cause attitudinal change as a means of minimizing the spread of the pandemic.

About 20 HIV/AIDS Focal Persons from the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo Regions were attending a five-day seminar under the programme to increase the knowledge and understanding of Judicial Service staff of factors that contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted infection and HIV/AIDS.

Mrs. Justice Adinyira said the legal system needed to be supportive of people living with HIV/AIDS and responsive to their human rights abuses and also empower them to stand up for their rights.

She said, " the fact that one is infected with HIV/AIDS does not automatically take away his or her human rights", noting, " any form of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with the disease is wrong".

"For instance there are reports that some foreign mission deny visas to people living with HIV/AIDS while others make it conditional for visa applicants to present HIV test results before their applications are considered", She said.

Mrs Justice Adinyira however, called for compulsory HIV/AIDS test for all sexually related criminal offenders so that those found to be HIV/AIDS positive could be properly rehabilitated about their sexual behaviour to reduce the spread of the disease.

Dr. Elias Sory, Northern Regional Director of Health Services said the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the Northern Region was low and cautioned the people not to be complacent about it, saying, " the irrational behaviour of men towards sex should be tackled seriously to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS".

He urged health workers to work hard in educating the people about the disease because the low infection rate has the potential of increasing. Dr. Sory said the Ministry of Health in the initial stages made mistakes in its efforts at fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS by making the disease a health issue without the involvement or collaborating with other agencies.

He explained that there were mix feelings about the approach used in HIV/AIDS messages, saying, " the messages are panicking ones".

Dr. Sory said for example, instead of "avoid casual sex" it is rather "avoid sex" and described such messages as misleading and could not help change the sexual of behaviour of the people.

He therefore called for the repackaging of all HIV/AIDS messages to encourage people to behave responsibly.

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