Bolgatanga, Dec. 1, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor said on Thursday that although Ghana has achieved some measure of progress in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic since 1986, the country's present prevalence rate of 3.1 per cent is still too high and unacceptable.
He therefore called for increased pressure to bring about the needed sexual behavioural change, especially among the youth. President Kufuor was addressing a durbar in Bolgatanga to commemorate this year's World Aids Day celebration, under the theme; "Stop AIDS - Keep the Promise."
He said: "We have reached that point where central to this fight must be a raw depiction of the dreadful effects of the disease." He tasked the Ghana AIDS Commission and District Assemblies to equip themselves with cinema vans and to ensure that they permeated every corner of the country with audio-visual messages, closely targeting the young and the vulnerable.
The existing legal and regulatory framework for addressing the problem of AIDS would have limited impact unless they were supported by appropriate values and behaviour of individuals and society as a whole, he said.
President Kufuor acknowledged the contribution of Ghana's development partners to the national response programme over the years and announced that the Executive Board of the International Development Association (IDA) had approved a credit of 20 million dollars in support of the country's anti-AIDS crusade for the next five years.
He further made it known that with the support of the Global Fund, government had introduced and up-scaled anti-retroviral treatment for people living with the disease over the last two years.
He gave the assurance that each regional hospital in the country would be equipped with the necessary facilities to provide anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS patients by the close of the year. President Kufuor indicated, however, that all the hard work being done by the Government, churches, and institutions to help control and prevent the spread of the pandemic could be undermined if society continued to avoid and discriminate against those who had been infected. "They need our support to accept their status. We must therefore act in such ways as to help improve their mental, physical and psycho-social health".
On the theme for this year's celebration, President Kufuor stated that "we are reminded to reflect on the promises we have made as a nation," which include the creation of appropriate structures to fight the infection.
Professor F T Sai, Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS, stressed the need to give more emphasis to the issue of women empowerment if the fight against HIV/AIDS should be won. "So long as women can be beaten into submission for sex by their male counterparts, AIDS will continue to be with us in Africa," he added.
Professor Sai called on the media to go a step further in propounding to the people how easy it was to deal with the disease and how important it was for them to know their HIV status, rather than just concentrating the message on how horrible the disease is.
The Regional Minister, Mr Boniface Gambila, expressed gratitude to government for providing the Regional Hospital with CD-4 Count equipment for the treatment of AIDS patients. With the arrival of the equipment, persons living with AIDS in the Region would no longer have to travel to Kumasi or Accra to access anti-retroviral drugs, he said. The Bolga-Naba, Martin Abilba III, chaired the function.