For persons infected by the HIV virus, disclosing one’s HIV/AIDS status to one’s close family members still remains a big challenge, in spite of the massive national educational campaign that is ongoing across the country.
There are many people living with the virus who have refused to tell their spouses, immediate family members or church leaders due to the fear of being stigmatised.
This group of persons end up not seeking proper medical care and rather go about infecting innocent women and men till they die.
Currently, only 280,000 people living with the virus have boldly opened up, thereby forming the National Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+ Ghana).
December 1, 2013 was World AIDS Day and was celebrated globally and nationally.
The global theme was: “Getting to Zero New HIV/AIDS Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths”. In Ghana the day was climaxed in Wa in the Upper West Region on the theme, “Accelerating the national response towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”.
The National Ambassador of the HIV/Heart-Heart, Rev John Azumah, in an interview with The Mirror, said the HIV/AIDS virus had been with us for some time now, yet people were always scared to go for voluntary testing to know their status.
“It is very necessary for all and sundry to know their status. If you test and you are negative, you refrain from all promiscuous acts or use condoms. However, when you are positive, like me, you condition your mind and go for medical advice on where to get anti-retroviral drugs to enable you to stay strong and healthy till your Maker calls you,” he said.
Rev Azumah said most of the time people claimed that not “knowing your status is better than knowing it, which will push you to your grave”, noting that that claim was far from the truth.
He called on the government to always ensure that anti-retroviral drugs were available to people living with HIV.
“Apart from a few instances when there is shortage of the drugs, most often when pharmacists embark on an industrial action, it affects most of our people because we need these drugs to survive,” he said.
He urged people living with the virus not to listen to fake men of God or herbalists who often claimed they could deliver them and cure them of the virus.
“Most of our people sometimes abandon their retroviral drugs and visit religious camps and herbalists for spiritual treatment. Unfortunately, they end up coming in a worse state and then lose their lives in most cases,” he added.
However, a report from the Ghana AIDS Commission puts the estimated HIV population for last year at 235,982.
The breakdown is as follows: 87,524 (37.1 per cent) were males; 120,724 (51.2 per cent) females, and 27,734 (11.8 per cent) were children.
The estimated new HIV infections are 7,991, out of which 7,139 (89.3 per cent) are adults, while 852 (10.7 per cent) are children. The estimated number of children orphaned by AIDS is 192,193.
The region with the highest HIV prevalence is Eastern, followed by Greater Accra, Ashanti, Volta, Western, Upper East, Brong Ahafo, Central, Upper West and Northern in that order.
As part of the national five-year strategic plan, the Ghana AIDS Commission and its implementing partners are doing all things possible to reduce by half the infections by 2015, with priority on virtual elimination of mother-to child-transmission of HIV and sustaining and scaling up the proportion of People Living With HIV (PLHIV) who are on treatment as a prevention strategy.