Accra Mail (Accra)

Ghana: ADM Aids Watch: Annual HIV/AIDS Bike Ride Rolls Ahead

The Annual HIV/AIDS Bike Ride organized by Peace Corps Ghana began Sunday, January 11, 2003. Some area health workers and Peace Corps Volunteers will ride more than one hundred miles across the Ashanti Region to carry a message of HIV prevention and support.

This year's bicycle ride ended on January 14.

The 4th Annual HIV/AIDS Bike Ride began in Jakubu with a community rally. The mobile outreach team is continuing by bicycle through more than 20 communities, where HIV/AIDS educational presentations will be given.

Past large-scale HIV/AIDS Bike Rides have reached more than 15,000 people in the Eastern, Volta, and Western Regions. This year's event was planned with support from ActionAid Ghana and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

"The Bike Rides reach small and remote communities that might otherwise be overlooked by regional HIV education efforts," said Peace Corps Volunteer HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator Hilary Heishman.

"They also provide a great opportunity to train the volunteers and health workers in community outreach methods."

The goal of the HIV/AIDS Bike Ride is to provide broad HIV/AIDS education to rural communities and to introduce methods and skills that can be used to reduce HIV transmission and increase care for those living with HIV/AIDS.

The outreach program preformed in each community will include an informative discussion, Life Skills activities, Journey of Hope (developed by Johns Hopkins University), condom demonstrations, and a question and answer period.

Facilitators will conduct or translate all activities in local languages.

"ITDP is proud to support this outreach initiative with bicycles. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to adequately caring for AIDS-inflicted patients in Africa," said Aimée Gauthier, Africa Desk Officer for ITDP, which donated six bicycles to be used on the ride.

"In addition to helping raise awareness, we've found that with a bicycle, health care workers can reach double or even triple the number of patients they did without one."

To date, less than 5% of Ghana's population is infected with HIV. The higher rate in Ghana?s bordering countries serves as a warning and a call to action for the Government of Ghana and her citizens.

Of the total number of AIDS cases reported in Ghana between 1986 and 2001, 30.4% of those cases were reported from the Ashanti Region.

Since the region accounts for a disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS cases, there is a definite need for increased awareness, prevention, and support programming within the region.

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