Kumasi, Nov. 16, GNA - Mrs. Theresa Kufuor, the First Lady, has advised Ghanaians to do away with fear and shyness and rather muster courage to offer themselves for voluntary HIV counselling and testing. She stated that going for voluntary HIV counselling and test was important, since it would help people ascertain their HIV status and thereby enable them plan better for their own progress, and development of the nation.
Mrs Kufuor gave the advice when she addressed a forum on HIV/AIDS, organised in Kumasi on Monday, by Mother and Child Community Development Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), in collaboration with the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), for women groups in the Kumasi metropolis.
The forum, which was under the theme, "Victims of HIV/AIDS Can Live Positive Life", was designed to further enlighten women about causes of the pandemic and their role in helping to reduce its spread.
Mrs Kufuor announced that the Mother and Child Community Development Foundation had evolved plans to offer financial assistance to people, who test positive after voluntary HIV test, to enable them either expand their businesses or start some trade. She said the gesture is also aimed at encouraging more people to opt to undergo voluntary counselling and testing for their HIV status in the country.
The First Lady stated that, as part of measures to also help people to have easy access to counselling services on HIV, the Mother and Child Community Development Foundation had initiated a programme for training of counsellors on issues related to HIV.
Miss Paulina Mensah Bonsu of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) expressed grave concern, and described as worrisome the situation in which some relations and friends of HIV victims decide to discriminate against them, while also branding them as outcast.
She said such an approach to dealing with people living with HIV was not the best, since discriminating against them would only worsen their plight, and should therefore be discouraged at all levels.
Miss Bonsu said instead, relations should demonstrate ample affection and extend comfort to people living with the disease to enable them also live much longer than expected.
Miss Alice Botchway, Ashanti Regional Co-ordinator of the National Commission for Women and Development (NCWD), who spoke on the topic "Stigma Reduction for HIV/AIDS Victims", appealed to the authorities and the Mother and Child Community Development Foundation, to assist in creating HIV counselling units at all levels of the communities. Mr S. K. Boafo, Ashanti Regional Minister entreated people to desist from perceiving HIV as a disease associated with witchcraft.