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16.07.2005 Health

Government's resources for HIV/AIDS programmes is inadequate-PLWHA

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Tamale, July 16, GNA - The Northern Region branch of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (NEPLWHA) has called on the government to increase its allocation of resources for HIV/AIDS programmes in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

The Network noted: "As at now HIV/AIDS drugs cannot be accessed and patients had to travel to Kumasi and Accra for treatment and we see this behaviour as an attempt to make us vulnerable to stigmatisation". "We also see this as a stab on our health to deny us the opportunity to live long with the disease and work to contribute our

quota to national economy". Mr. Clement Azigwe, President of the NEPLWHA raised these concerns at a one-day HIV/AIDS Sensitisation workshop in Tamale. Mr Azigwe said it was their right to have access to treatment like any other persons in the country and therefore, appealed to the government to make available without delay HIV/AIDS drugs to in the three Northern Regions.

The forum was organised for the Ghana Network of PLWHA and the Nigeria Network of PLWHA share experiences and to help establishment the Ghana Network of PLWHA to build alliance with other networks in the sub-region.

The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) and "Positive Steps Partnership (POSTEP) Ghana", both NGOs jointly organised the workshop, which was sponsored by Christian Aid, a UK based Non-governmental Organisation.

Dr. Patrick Matemilola, Coordinator of People Living HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPLWHAN) said it was a constitutional right for PLWHA to have access to treatment, adding: " HIV/AIDS patients have equal rights and these rights must be respected" and urged the Ghana Network of PLWHA to advocate for treatment.

Dr. Matemilola, who had lived with the disease for 12 years urged public officials who are living with the disease to join the association, as this would encourage more people who are HIV/AIDS positive to come out and announce their health status. He said the HIV/AIDS pandemic poses problems and challenges for society but noted that the most important among them is how to overcome the challenges

"For instance, society has associated the disease with fear, discrimination, stigmatization and ejection and this has made people not to disclose their HIV/AIDS status openly". "Stigmatisation is a great challenge and this is killing us but not the disease. Some of us would have lived longer if society had shown love and passion to us."

Dr. Matemilola urged the Ghana Network to go into the communities and mobilize PLWHA to form groups and empower them economically to encourage people to come for voluntary test as a response to the national call to reduce the spread of the disease.

"Let come together in order to give the pandemic a face and a voice". Mr. Andrew D. Saibu, Country Director of Positive Steps-Ghana, said whether the pandemic would be curtailed or not, much would depend on "our actions and the role we play".

He said much awareness about the disease had been created but this had not corresponded with the prevalent rate of HIV/AIDS in the country. The POSTEP Director urged the government to channel the HIPC and debt relieve funds to support PLWHA in the Northern Regions. Mr Saibu called on the media and health professionals whose write-ups and messages contributed immensely to the problems of HIV/AIDS in the advent of the disease to do more sensitization work to change the perception that people had about the disease. July 16 05