10.03.2005 Regional News

Veep calls for the protection of children from HIV/AIDS

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Koforidua, March 10, GNA - The Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, has called for more efforts to protect children between the ages of five and 14 years from the HIV/AIDS.

He explained that, if such children could be taught to protect themselves from the HIV infections before they become sexually active, they could remain free of HIV for their entire lives. This was contained in a speech read on behalf of Alhaji Mahama by Mr Yaw Osafo-Marfo, Minister for Education and Sports, at Koforidua on Thursday, at the launching of the "ECOWAS HIV/AIDS Priority Project-Teachers, Agents of Dissemination and Change."

Under the project, teachers, students and pupils would be provided with the relevant information and means to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS infection and also from infecting others.

He noted that HIV/AIDS had contributed to increased mortality in almost all age groups in the country but the impact was most severe among adults in the prime working ages of 15 to 49 years.

Alhaji Mahama said the 15 to 49 years' group of the population constituted the most economically productive segment of the population and therefore any illness and deaths in that group constituted an important economic lost to the country.

He observed that teachers in the country belong to the economically productive segment of the population, saying the country could not afford to lose the productive years of the teachers and the huge investment made in them to HIV/AIDS.

Alhaji Mahama called on Regional and District Directors of Education to commit themselves to the successful implementation of the programme in order to ensure good returns for funds invested in it. He said the country had reached a stage where the large numbers of teachers should not be a barrier for the provision of better remuneration and good service conditions.

The Education Director of the British Department for International Development (DFID), Mr John Taylor, said the relatively low prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Ghana should not make the country to be complacent and allow the situation to get worse.

He said in the absence of medical vaccines for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, education was the only "social vaccine" that could be used to reduce the effect of the disease.

Mr Taylor announced that his country was therefore, supporting the training programme of the project with over two billion cedis. The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Yaw Barimah, who chaired the function, expressed the hope that the involvement of teachers in the project could help to protect the youth from the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Mr Osafo-Marfo launched two books on HIV/AIDS, which would be used at the pre-school and basic levels of education under the project.

A training programme which was organized immediately after the launching ceremony was attended by 120 participants made up of Regional and District Directors of Education from the Central, Eastern, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions.

Among the participants were also representatives of training colleges, technical institutions; regional managers of educational units and representatives of some recognized institutions in the educational sector.

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