Koforidua, Jan. 19, GNA - The Vice President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle on Wednesday launched a five-year Catholic Relief Service (CRS)/Ghana Catholic Diocesan HIV/AIDS Community Care and Support Project (COMCASUP) at Koforidua.
The 1.5 million-dollar project was jointly designed by the CRS and the GCBC with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and private sources.
The project, which is to be undertaken in five regions - the Eastern, Ashanti, Western, Volta and Upper East- was targeted at 6,000 People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and 4,000 Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).
Indirect beneficiaries of the project would include 12,000 affected families and about 3 million people within the 35 high HIV/AIDS transmission districts in the five regions.
In his launching address, Bishop Palmer-Buckle, who is also the Bishop of Koforidua, recalled that the Catholic Church, both national and worldwide had been involved in various initiatives connected with the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic ever since its discovery in the 1980s.
According to him, the Church's health services had pioneered activities and programmes in the medical/clinical, pastoral and socio-economic sectors.
He said such programmes were going on at ten of the Church's hospitals in the country, including those at Odumasi-Krobo, Akwatia, Koforidua and Nkawkaw in the Eastern Region.
Bishop Palmer-Buckle who mentioned some previous collaborative anti-HIV/AIDS projects between the Church and foreign donors, however, described the current project as unique because, unlike the others, the main donors - CRS and USAID- were based in Ghana, which would ensure close consultations among the partners during the implementation period. He hoped after the five-year period, the project could still be sustained "for as long as the scourge persists in the country".
The Deputy Director of the USAID, Mr Alex Newton, noted that, the "devastating toll" that the HIV/AIDS continued to take on individuals, families, communities and nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which he said, had most of the world's 40 million PLWHAs.
According to him, many of the 3.1 million of those who died last year or were suffering from the disease had been rejected by loved ones, denied treatment, care and support because of the stigma and discrimination experienced from ignorance and fear.
Mr Newton observed that through the project, Ghana would have a "window of opportunity" that would minimize "such unthinkable mistreatment" of HIV infected and affected individuals as it would provide some of the best evidence that "Ghanaians are a caring people."
"The country is a beacon to the world, showing that Ghanaians not only participate in a peaceful democracy and one of Africa's most stable economies, but also take care of the most vulnerable among them", he stated.
The HIV/AIDS Care and Support Specialist of the CRS, Mrs Mavis Asiedu-Asamoah Frimpong, who gave the project brief, said among other things, the project would increase educational and livelihood skill training for 1,000 needy OVCs and improve nutrition and health care among the 13,500 PLHWAs as well as the affected families in the project area.
She said the expected results from the project included improved dignity and access to health services, empowering PLWHAs to enjoy their fundamental human rights with reduced stigmatisation and discrimination.
The Eastern Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyirah, who chaired the ceremony, hoped that PLWHAs would be made to enjoy the benefits under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Bishop Palmer-Buckle later received three cross-country vehicles and three computers and accessories worth 82,000 dollars for the project from the Country Representative of the CRS, Mr David Orth-Moore. Among the dignitaries present included the Konor of Yilo Krobo and President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, Nene Narh Dawutey Ologo VI, and the Bishop of Keta-Akatsi Diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Adanuty. Jan. 19, 05