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13.05.2005 Regional News

HIV/AIDS prevalence rises in Ho Municipality

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Ho, May 13, GNA - The HIV/AIDS prevalent rate in the Ho municipality is now 5.8 per cent from 2.2 in 2004, Mr. Gregory Amenuvegbe, Ghana Health Service (GHS), Volta Regional Coordinator of HIV/AIDS Programmes said on Thursday. He said this puts the Ho Municipality at the top of the table among other districts in the region in sentinel surveys of the GHS. Mr. Amenuvegbe was addressing the audience at a debate on Legalization of Prostitution and Compulsory Testing as a Measure to Curb HIV/AIDS.

He put the regional prevalent rate at 3.5 per cent, rising from 2.9 per cent in 2004. Mr Amenuvegbe said "these figures give cause for concern and for all hands on deck to check the spread of the disease in the region and the country as a whole".

He told the hushed audience most of whom, were against the legalization of prostitution that the practice was widespread and going on under many covers and forms. Mr. Amenuvegbe said though Aflao was the only town in the Volta Region where prostitutes operate in an organized form, there was evidence of the practice going on in other forms in some other towns in the region. He said based on figures of high HIV/AIDS prevalent rates of between 75 and 84 per cent among Prostitutes in Accra and Kumasi, the Volta Regional Directorate of the GHS had made attempts to locate prostitutes in the region for education. Mr Amenuvegbe said unfortunately many in the region belonged to the category of "roamers", who as the name connotes were not stationery and therefore so elusive.

"We use the "seaters," that is prostitutes who could be traced to specific locations to be able to establish contacts with the roamers," he explained.

The debate was organized to mark the seventh anniversary of the Legal Awareness Programme (LAP-VR), a project of Women In Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF). It was in conjunction with the UN Population and Family Life Education Club of Ho Polytechnic. Proponents of legalization of prostitution led by Prosper Edem Tofoatsi, said prostitution in Ghana was a reality and widespread and should therefore be legalized to enable easy identification and controls for purposes of fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. They contended that prostitutes earned income and could be a huge source of revenue for the state if their operations were regularized. Benjamin Nador, leading the case against legalizing the practice, however argued that prostitution was immoral, culturally alien and thoroughly repugnant.

Those who argued against legalizing the practice won by 71 per cent as against 66 per cent for those for legalization. On compulsory testing for HIV/AIDS the proponents argued that it was necessary to enable infected persons to get help while those opposing said the inaccuracies in test results made it unnecessary. Mrs. Felicia Okyere-Darko, Principal State Attorney in the Volta Region giving the legal perspective said under the criminal code of Ghana soliciting for sex, operating a brothel and earning a living off operations of a prostitute were offences. She said the issue was a human rights problem, stating that countries, which had legalized prostitution, were still groping to solve problems associated with that decision.

Mrs. Okyere-Darko said for now the law frowned on prostitution but noted that laws were subject to amendment.

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