The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) considers this year’s World AIDS Day being commemorated under the theme: ‘Know Your Status’ as timely, and wishes to encourage state agencies within the health sector and other relevant institutions, such as the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) and the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), to prioritize and intensify sensitization efforts to enable as many Ghanaians, particularly the youth, to accept voluntary counseling and testing.
A recent report released by the GAC indicating that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst the youth in 2017, particularly those below the age of 24, rose to about 45% nationwide should be a source of great concern to all. Considering that Ghana’s youthful population (under 25) stands at about 57%, this revelation from GAC is very disturbing as the report suggests the nation is facing major challenges regarding its future leaders. As government and other non-state actors are working to create an enabling environment to educate, create employment opportunities and encourage the active participation of the youth in the governance and development process of the country, it is important for us to ensure the youthful population live responsible lives to preserve their health since GAC has attributed this rise in HIV/AIDS among the youth to risky lifestyle choices which exposes them to the disease.
The United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) identifies stigma and discrimination as one of the major barriers preventing people from getting tested, while the lack of access to confidential HIV counseling and testing causes many to only get test when they have fallen ill or hospitalized. Despite the passage of the Ghana AIDS Commission Act 2016 (Act 938), which is to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, stigmatization and discrimination very much exists in the country. Further, the stigmatization and deliberate denial of existence of sexual minorities in the country also continue to fuel the spread of the HIV virus, and has undermined the ability of the individuals involved to seek the necessary support and treatment. Although the GAC’s National and Sub-National HIV and AIDS Estimates and Projection Report (2017-2022) highlights the significant progress which has been made in the fight against HIV in Ghana, more concrete steps need to be taken to consolidate these gains since the HIV population among young adults aged 15-24 years increased by 5.41% between 2013-2018.
The Commission attributed this increase partly to weak legal environment and non-enforcement of laws and policies in Ghana, as well as reduction in public education and sensitization on HIV over the period.
As the nation joins the world in the celebration of World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1, 2018, there is the need to collectively work towards achieving a society free of stigmatization and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV/AIDS and sexual minorities. In addition, there is the need to intensify awareness, regular and continuous access to HIV prevention materials, treatment, care and support services.
For more information, please contact:
Efua Idan Atadja
Communication Specialist, CDD-Ghana