Mr. Alhassan Samari, Upper East Regional Minister, at the weekend expressed concern at the increasing rate of HIV/AID infections in the region as it experienced a 15 percent increase of infected persons in 2006.
He noted that the region, which had one of the lowest number of HIV/AIDS infections in the late 1990s and early 2000 currently ranks as the fifth highest in the number of infected persons with a prevalence rate of 3.2 percent as against the national rate of 2.2 percent.
Mr. Samari disclosed this at the regional celebration of HIV/AIDS Day in Bolgatanga.
“To attain our development goals as envisioned under the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) this disease has to be tackled seriously since it could be a major impediment to our country's quest towards attaining a middle income status by 2015.
He appealed to all who had been passive in the control of HIV to emulate the Regional Aids Committee and NGOs that were working hard to control the disease.
He called on District Assemblies, Traditional Rulers, Departments and Agencies and the private sector to formulate practical plans against HIV/AIDS and ensure they were carried out.
Mr. Isaac Nsoh Amoah, Bolgatanga Municipal Chief Executive, advised the general public to show compassion and love to people living with HIV/AIDS.
He cautioned the youth against pre-marital sex, saying, “let us adopt healthy sexual lifestyle and eradicate HIV/AIDS from society.
Dr. Nsire Agana, Deputy Regional Director of Health Services asked all to volunteer and go for counselling and testing as it was better to know one's status and begin to attend to one's health at the early stage of infection.
Madam Tani Ayuepaadu, Regional President of the Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS urged the public not to stigmatise or shun people infected with HIV.
She asked the people at the ceremony if they could recognize her as someone infected with HIV and when they answered that there was no such indication, she said, “beware, AIDS is real”.
Madam Ayuepaadu, who looked healthy, said she was at the point of death and her mother and sisters ill-treated her until she checked her status and started taking anti retroviral drugs.
She appealed to the government and NGOs to help supply more anti retroviral drugs for the many people living with HIV but had no access to the drug.
The Day was celebrated on the theme; 'Reducing Stigma and Discrimination'. School pupils carried placards that read, 'Stay faithful to one Sexual Partner', 'Avoid Unprotected Sex', 'Protect Yourself Now Against AIDS' and 'Love Life, Stop AIDS'.
The Ghana Health Services (GHS) set up a voluntary counselling and testing unit near the grounds of the celebrations and urged those who were at the function to check their HIV status.