HIV/AIDS patients in the Brong Ahafo Region, and Sunyani in particular, are threatening to spread the disease among the adult population because of the way they are being stigmatised by the general public. The patients, who are mainly women serving as paralegals in their communities, issued the threat at a refresher training organised by the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Ghana, in Sunyani recently.
“Because we take our drugs regularly, we look very nice and attractive. Nothing will tell you that some of us live with the disease, and so we are warning the general public to desist from stigmatising us. HIV/AIDS is no respecter of persons, and you will not know the next person you will sleep with,” the affected women warned.
They blamed the clergy, church leaders and health workers for spreading their HIV status, saying “because we have confidence in our pastors, we inform them of our status, but they spread information about us.”
Though there has been public education on the need to avoid stigmatisation of HIV patients, the unfortunate development still continues unabated. The first case of HIV was discovered in Ghana in 1986, and by 1987, 107 cases had already been reported. Three hundred and thirty-three people were identified as HIV positive by the end of March 1988. The figure increased to 2,744 by the end of April 1990.
According to Wikipedia, by the end of 2014, the HIV virus had infected an estimated 150,000 people in Ghana, with its 1.37 percent prevailing rate being highest in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and lowest in the three northern regions. Latest figures indicate that the disease is spreading at an alarming rate of 70.15%. According to the Ghana Aids Control Programme, the rate of new infections increased from 12,000 in 2015 to 20,148 in 2016.
The Ghana Aids Control Programme, according to a story published by myjoyonline.com, is concerned about the latest figures, because Ghana recorded significant gains in the key target areas of ending HIV/ AIDS for five years.
The Chronicle equally shares the concerns of the Ghana Aids Control Programme, because if the current trend continues, it will spell doom for the country in the future. This is the reason why every Ghanaian must come on onboard in the fight against the spread of the disease.
The Chronicle is particularly calling on the people of Sunyani and its environs to stop stigmatising people already infected with the disease. The above statistics we have quoted is a clear indication that the disease is on the ascendency in the country ever since it was first discovered in 1986. It would, therefore, be a disaster for the country, should the HIV patients carry out their threat to spread the disease because of stigmatisation.
As they alluded to, it is, indeed, very difficult to determine a carrier of the disease if the infected person keeps taking the HIV antiretroviral drugs. This demand on Ghanaians to pamper them instead of stigmatisation because they can easily spread the disease, if they indeed want to do so. The Chronicle is equally calling on pastors to stop making public, private matters of their members. Pastors, like every Ghanaian, also have the duty to stop the spread of HIV in the country.
Disclosing the HIV status of a member is, therefore, not the best option one should go for. These pastors should rather be counseling patients to stay away from either sleeping with men or women, and also stick to their antiretroviral drugs instead of disclosing their status to the public, as some of the women are alleging.