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27.01.2005 Regional News

People still don't believe the reality of HIV/AIDS

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Bole, {N/R}, Jan. 27, GNA - Many people in Bole District in the Northern region still do not believe that HIV/AIDS is real, in spite of the intensive education on the existence of the disease. "They are held hostage by their traditional and cultural beliefs that those who die of HIV/AIDS related diseases are either bewitched by other people in the communities or that they have wronged their ancestral gods"

Mrs. Florence Kpeng, Midwifery Superintendent of the Bole Hospital told the GNA in an interview at Bole on Tuesday.

Mrs Kpeng is also an HIV/AIDS care and support person for the "Positive Steps Partnership (POSTEP) - Ghana, a Tamale-based NGO involved in providing care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

She said the district recorded 84 HIV/AIDS cases last year and two cases in January this year, while many infected persons were hiding in their houses with the disease.

She called for an intensive HIV/AIDS education in the district to effect a behavioural change and influence the people to accept the existence of the disease.

The NGO was in the district to distribute rice, wheat-soy-blend, cooking oil, toilet soap and wheat to people living with HIV/AIDS and children orphaned by the disease at Bole, Mankuma, Sakpa, Sonyo, Gbanfu and Manful in the Bole District and Sawla in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District.

The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provided some of the food items to POSTEP, while the NGO donated cash ranging from 50,000 cedis to 200,000 cedis to people living with the disease to enable them to buy drugs.

Those who wanted to undertake income-generating activities were given 500,000 cedis each. The NGO was also taking care of the education of the orphaned children.

During the rounds, the staff of the NGO met one of its clients, Miss Alijata Kapori, who had brought out three of her albums and was flipping through her pictures to remember her good days.

Miss Kapori later broke down in tears when she saw one of her clothes she admired most in the pictures. She had sold the clothes to raise money to cater for herself.

After admiring her pictures, she said: "I was the Alijata that most men love to have a glimpse of and to touch but I am now a different Alijata that nobody wants to see and those who touch me now have to wash their hands"

Asked why she was looking at her pictures, she said: " I wanted to recollect my good old days when I was rosy and bubbling with life as compared to what I am today" adding, "is that how life is?" Miss Kapori told the GNA that she had sold out all her belongings including a piece of land to treat herself, saying, "my only source of livelihood now is POSTEP".

She said she got married in la Cote d'Ivoire to a man, who hailed from Akim Tafo in the Eastern Region and had two children with him, but lamented that both her children and the husband died two years ago. Miss Abiba Abdulai, who has lived with the disease for the past 11 years, said her husband divorced her when he got to know that she was HIV positive.

She said she was the breadwinner of her family and that it was her prayer that she will bury her old mother " but if I die now, it will be a painful death".

The HIV/AIDS situation in Bole is so alarming that in some families; one could count two persons out of ten living with the disease, while there are many children orphaned by the disease. What makes the situation more frightening is that, new cases are emerging in some of the remote villages. A number of women living with the disease that the GNA interviewed said they had one time lived in the la Cote d'Ivoire, where they were engaged in prostitution before returning home. They said poverty forced them to migrate to la Cote d'Ivoire in search of greener pastures. The women therefore, called on the authorities to stem the movement of the youth to neighbouring countries by providing them with employable skills and funds to undertake income-generating activities. 27 Jan. 05

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