Accra, Nov. 1, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, on Tuesday expressed concern that Ghana was facing increasing numbers of new HIV/AIDS infections and a growing death toll.
He said the massive social and economic cost in dealing with the rate of infection impose on the nation the need to deepen the national response to reverse the situation.
Vice President Alhaji Mahama made this observation in Accra, when he launched the national programme of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) to mark World AIDS day, which falls on December 1, this year on the theme: Stop AIDS, Keep The Promise".
The month-long programme comprises radio and television discussions, advocacy on treatment and care and free national voluntary counselling and testing.
Vice President Alhaji Mahama said: "The full extent of the epidemic on socio-economic development since its tragic burst on the world scene in the 1980's has been particularly felt in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"The full extent of the epidemic is still unfolding and studies are showing its capacity to destroy the gains of development and sending many countries back," he said.
Vice President Alhaji Mahama said Government in collaboration with its development partners would launch the second phase of the national response in January next, which would span five years, to replace the first phase, which lasted the same period.
The national response is a strategic framework in line with the objectives of World AIDS Day, instituted by the United Nations to facilitate a global focus on the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS. This involves the reduction of new infections among vulnerable groups; reduce stigma and discrimination especially towards People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWAS).
Vice President Alhaji Mahama said: "Everyone should make a contribution either by making a promise to support the campaign and its work or by promoting the campaign with friends and colleagues". He said this year's campaign should go beyond awareness and galvanize action at the individual, community, national and global levels in the fight against the epidemic.
Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director-General of GAC, said although Ghana's HIV prevalence rate was among the lowest in the Sub-Region, the epidemic was still a major public health and developmental challenge that contributed significantly to household vulnerability and poverty in the society.
"We all have a promise to keep, a promise to pursue the fight without retracting, a promise to protect the human resource of the nation, a promise that we will collaborate in a concerted effort and work to address the devastating impact."
Dr Melville George, World Health Organisation, Country Representative, said the framework for action against HIV/AIDS should emphasize on the fighting of stigmatisation and providing the infrastructure for the care and support of the PLWAS. Ms Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, held the large audience at the Trade Fair Conference Centre spell bound when she narrated the ordeal a former employee, went through before she died through HIV/AIDS. The deceased, whom she described, simply as Mary was a pretty and sociable woman, until AIDS wrecked havoc in her life until she was stigmatised and rejected by society.
Mary became a destitute and was sent to a shrine where she was denied treatment in hospital because the fetish priestess diagnosed her sickness as a spiritual problem.
Ms Bossman said AIDS attacked the body while stigmatisation attacked the spirit and both could kill.
Dr William Ampofo of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research called on the Government to make adequate resources available to facilitate research to combat HIV/AIDS. Ms Gladys Tetteh Yeboah of the National Coalition For Global Movement Of Children said 15 million children would be given lessons about the rights of PLWAS especially children as part of this years World AIDS Day.
Professor Fred Sai, Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS/ Reproductive Health, who chaired the function, launched two books written by Prof. Amoa, on HIV/AIDS and another authored by Prof. Sai.