5 December 2006

Ghana: Aids Threatening Millennium Goal

HIV/AIDS, the worlds most dreaded enemy appears to be threatening the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

It is thus threatening entire security of the world with equally debilitating effects for poor and developing countries, especially those in Africa.

Despite national and international efforts to clamp down and reduce its levels of infection, rates of new infections continue to rise in many countries of sub Saharan Africa, being the most affected region in the world.

Professor F.T Sai is Ghana's President's Special Advisor on the virus and says "HIV/AIDS is the single greatest threat to the security and development of much of Africa, making it impossible to attain many of the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals".

Out of fivemillion new infections recorded globally in 2005,he says 3.2million; representing 64% were in sub Saharan Africa.

Statistics available indicates that since the 1980's, 50 million people in Africa have been infected by HIV with 22 million died.

Majority of those affected are said to be in their reproductive ages where they could have rendered effective, selfless and dedicated services to their respective countries.

This is seen as having great implications for a continent already struggling to with development such as Africa.

Most intriguing is the fact that more than 12 million children who through no fault of theirs have been orphaned by this dreaded virus, virtually depriving them of love and affection normally offered by parents.

Alarmed at the increasing spate of infection, Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Chairman of the Ghana AIDS Commission who recently delivered a key note address on behalf of Professor Sai to mark the celebration of World AIDS day under the theme, "Stop AIDS, keep the promise: the time is now" expressed the fear that "without accelerated efforts to prevent its spread, HIV/AIDS will continue to roll back progress and hard won gains and intensify poverty and human suffering".

The 2005 sentinel survey conducted in Ghana points to a stabilizing epidemic in the country.

The current prevalence rate is estimated to be 2.7% as against the 3.1% recorded in 2004, which depicts a drastic reduction of 13% of the prevalence rate within the last two years.

Professor Awuku Amoa's AIDS Commission however believes that "the national response has indeed made significant progress in prevention, treatment, care and support".

It says prevention of new HIV infections has been vigorously pursued through promotion of safer sex practices, voluntary counseling and testing services.

Considering its effects and the stigmatization that comes with it, the AIDS Commission has cautioned religious leaders against coercing people in their congregations to test their HIV/AIDS status as being rumoured that some religious bodies are forcing their members to go for HIV tests.

It therefore called on civil society organizations and traditional leaders to address some of the socio-cultural factors, which help the spread of the virus.

With the virus staring glaringly at world's population, the learned fellow asked religious leaders to keep to their individual and collective promise to help fight the against the worlds most dreaded enemy.

On his part, Rev. Dr. Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana expressed the belief that the country's religious leaders would rise and face the challenge ahead since the country could not sacrifice its population to HIV/AIDS.

He thus asked each and every religious leader to preach the message of abstinence and protection whenever he mounts the pulpit to preach or worship.

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