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03.01.2018 Feature Article

‘Welcome a Stranger’: Who’s a stranger?

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A stranger is simply a person who one does not know or with whom one is not familiar. In the synoptic Gospels for example in Luke’s book Chapter 24: 18, the word stranger is used sarcastically or mockingly. From that narrative or passage it doesn’t suggest that the enquirer or questioner is a stranger in Jerusalem. But it’s his lack of knowledge about the resurrection of Jesus that makes him a stranger in the Holy City.

Hence the question: ‘Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem’?

This happened when Jesus appeared to two disciples on his way to Emmaus.

On Thursday December 28 2017 Ghana Advocacy Group (GAG) used the ‘Stranger’ word in its first ever charity concert for street folks in Ghana dubbed: “Welcome a Stranger.’ In this context, the word ‘stranger’ means the less-privileged, or the have-nots or the needy in society. And GAG chose the Christmas festivity to reach out to those folks.

The event which was held at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park in Accra was jointly organised by GAG and Ghana Aids Commission (GAC). It was aimed at sensitising and creating awareness among the youth in Ghana on HIV and other health related issues.

There was music, there was food and there was drink. Speaker after speaker stressed the need to take care of one’s wellbeing or health.

“In our new year resolutions we often don’t talk about health,” said a speaker at the event.

Health is missing from the package although it’s central to human welfare. Today, I am here to reignite your zeal and commitment to your health needs and ensure that you begin steps necessary for a healthy life, stressing this cannot be complete without addressing HIV and other sexually transmitted disease, ” the speaker from GAC said.

She noted, Ghana as a nation had subscribed to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 fast-track targets which are to ensure that by the year 2020 it would be able to achieve the following:

By 2020 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. Ninety per cent all of people diagnosed with HIV infection should receive sustained anti-retroviral and retain in care. And also 90 per cent of all people on anti- retroviral therapy should have viral suppression.

The GAC staff was hopeful this could be achieved if everyone targets health as a major issue.

“In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which seek to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages, the regional coordinating council and all other stakeholders involved will like to ensure that these goals are achieved as envisioned. This is very important and I believe we should make a conscious effort to pay more attention to our health to ensure that we stay healthy, live well and live longer…. GAC believes in offering equal opportunity to everyone, hence the commitment to support the less privilege in the society. You would recall that the commitment remains our number one agenda i.e to address the problems of HIV, focus on prevention and treatment. This is part of our target towards ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.”

“Today I am here,” she reiterated, “to reignite your zeal and commitment to your health needs and ensure that you begin taking the steps necessary to a healthy life. And this cannot be complete without addressing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

On behalf of GAC, she urged everyone to practise safe methods during sexual intercourse. According to her he NPP government has the health of Ghanaians at heart and has made adequate provisions for safeguarding it by expanding ’access to quality health and wellbeing, in particular for women and children, she pointed out.

Mr. Kwame Boakye Danquah a founding member of GAG in his remarks thanked all the participants of the event and praised the ‘strangers’ for their fortitude and great spirit of endurance. He also advised the youth to use condom, emphasising that would help reduce HIV infection in the country.

“I will like to encourage all of you here present to use condom whenever you meet the opposite sex or partner,” he said.

Perhaps the climax of the event was a ‘Stranger’ by name Gifty who shared her incredible story with the world. Gifty (I prefer to use her first name only) is an HIV carrier. About 15 years ago the married woman was tested positive for the virus following diagnosis. After knowing her status Gifty says she received anti-retroviral treatment which has helped improved her health status remarkably since.

Today she tells her story with pride and joy because she’s alive, noting that her story could have been different if she didn’t know her status. . Gifty flaunts her beauty and tells the world that she will have a grand party in April 2018 because the Lord has been good to her.

“Next year April 16, 2018 I will celebrate in grand style. Because it marks 15 years since I was diagnosed with HIV. I don’t know what would have become of me, if I‘d not found out my HIV status. .. I would have been dead by now.”

By 2020 or in not too distant future, I’m tempted to believe that Gifty could be among the people on anti- retroviral therapy that would have viral suppression.

Indeed, 15 years ago, there were probably many like Gifty that chose not to check their status for fear of rejection and being stigmatised. Since the disease broke out over 30 years ago here’d been cases of some individuals who took their own lives. Unlike Gifty they’d probably decided to stay in the closets without checking their HIV status.

Of course the disease can also be transmitted through other means aside sexual intercourse. For example blood transfusion is another means. This is why a deputy minister of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection urged all and sundry to be extra careful about sharp objects. She encouraged participants to take the HIV test and know their status.

“In fighting this pandemic disease abstinence is crucial. But more importantly I urge you the young ones to stay away from any sharp objects used by your guardians: Stay away from sharps used by your parents—mom and dad.”

In fact, she wittingly stressed: “You children must run away from your Dads’ blades, razors, knives, cutters etc. Those are dangerous and must be avoided at all cost.”

In a nutshell, thou shalt not entertain any sharp objects used by your fathers.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2018

The author has 462 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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