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26.02.2005 Regional News

Voluntary counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS to begin next month

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Kumasi, Feb 26, GNA - Voluntary counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) will start in the Ashanti Region in March. Mr Michael Boamey, Ashanti Regional Co-ordinator for HIV/AIDS programme, said 35 health institutions in the region, including the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, would provide voluntary counselling and testing and prevention of mother to child transmission to the public and pregnant women.

He was speaking at a one-day review meeting of stakeholders in the Western and Ashanti regions' HIV/AIDS and STIs project in Kumasi. It was organised by Network for Health and Relief Foundation, an NGO, in collaboration with Care International for long distance truck drivers and loggers drawn from Subin, Asokwa and Manhyia in Kumasi. Mr Boamey said counselling and testing for both the general public and pregnant women would be voluntary.

Interventions have been put in place to protect transmission from the mother to the baby to those who would test positive. Services provided for the mother at the health institutions will be free and for the baby as well but the public will pay 5,000 cedis. Mr Boamey said the focus on the disease had shifted to behavioural change since it had been realised that the majority of Ghanaians are aware of the existence and danger posed by the pandemic.

What is left is a change in sexual behaviour and as such the Ghana Health Service (GHS) is now laying emphasis on behaviour change. Mrs Charity Nikoi of Care International said her organisation had 699 volunteers in the Ashanti Region out of which 254 are peer educators. Their main focus is on peer education, condom distribution, chemical sales and care giving. She said the three-year project being sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture had about half a year to end and that a lot of awareness had been created.

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