Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

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World AIDS Day

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World AIDS Day:  A Time to Reflect on Progress being Made…

Story by Mark Shircore

Imagine if every family in Ghana had suffered a loss due to AIDS? Inconceivable? Well, according to Stephen Lewis, the former HIV/AIDS advisor to the UN Secretary General, this is already the grim reality in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Nambia, Mozambique and Botswana! Over 33 million people are living with HIV;  two-thirds of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa.  A staggering 2 million people die each year from this cruel disease.  World AIDS day is celebrated each year on December 1st, and is a time when communities around the world hold events to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to show support to those unfortunate enough to be infected. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day in Ghana is “Universal Access and Human Rights”, but before exploring the Ghanaian context, let’s first examine some of the facts.

HIV is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system. If, as a result of HIV, the immune system becomes so weak that it can no longer fight a range of diseases with which it would normally cope, a person is considered to have developed AIDS. The most common way in which HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex with someone already infected with the disease. An HIV-positive mother can also pass on the disease to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; although with effective treatment the risk can be substantially reduced. Whilst there is currently no cure for HIV, if the disease is detected early, treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy, allowing infected people to live normal, active lives, although they may experience side effects from the treatment.

Whilst Ghana has one of the lowest HIV rates in sub-Saharan Africa, this is no cause for complacency. The sobering statistics reveal that approximately 2% of the population (260,000 people) is living with AIDS, almost two-thirds of whom are women and children. In 2007, 21,000 people in Ghana died of AIDS – over 50 people every day!

Encouragingly, funding to combat the HIV epidemic in Ghana has shown a systematic increase from 2005 through to 2007, according to a report prepared by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana. However, whilst spending on treatment has increased, the proportion of funding dedicated to prevention has decreased markedly, to only 12% in 2007. The report’s authors comment that this is a worrying trend, given that prevention programmes remain the cornerstone of the national strategy to overcome the epidemic. They also point out that those most at risk of contracting HIV “benefited from 2% of total funding which is woefully inadequate”.

Universal access to treatment, prevention care and support, and respect for those with HIV/AIDS are the main messages for this year’s World AIDS Day.

Universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support, and respect for those with HIV/AIDS are the main messages for this year’s World AIDS Day. What are some of the things you can do in your everyday life to support these initiatives:

–        Make sure you understand the facts about HIV/AIDS and inform your friends, family and colleagues – make sure they know the reality, not the myths.

–        Know your HIV status and make sure you are tested if you have been exposed to the risk of HIV infection.

–        Use a condom with any new sexual partner. This is the best way to protect both you and your partner.

–        If you learn that someone is HIV positive, treat them with respect and don’t tell others without their agreement.

As Stephen Lewis eloquently states: “Stigma is the bane of progress, it savages and ravages, ostracizes and isolates those who are living with the virus. Eradicating stigma will be the last holdout in the epic battle against AIDS.”

“The most common way in which HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex with someone already infected with the disease.”


Written by Mar(k)

December 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. congratulations for touching sunkens hearts

    Regina sila

    November 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

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