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General News
Do away with stigmatization 1/11/2007
Accra, Jan. 10, GNA - Stigmatisation should be strongly fought to help to reduce the HIV prevalence to the barest minimum, Professor Fred Sai, Presidential Adviser on HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health, said on Wednesday.

He said stigma was the unfair and unjust treatment of an individual based on the one''s HIV status and that it continued to fuel the epidemic.

Speaking at the launch of the National HIV/AIDS Stigma Reduction Campaign in Accra, Prof Sai said when stigma existed, people preferred to ignore their real status and that could lead to the risk of faster disease progression for themselves and also the risk of spreading HIV to others.

The Stigma Campaign seeks to wake up Ghanaians about the issue of stigma, make hypocritical and judging behaviour evident as well as make people reflect on their own actions in stigmatising behaviours. "Being discriminated against is not funny it is a breach on human rights"; Prof. Sai said and urged Ghanaians to help stem it.

Prof. Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director General, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), said the level of stigmatisation in the country was so high that people were scared of finding out their HIV status.

That, he said, was a major hurdle to overcome before giant strides in the reduction of the prevalence could be attained.

He said the Commission with the help of its development partners was increasing the access to Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) facilities across the country in addition to Intervention Programmes that would focus on target groups and high-risk areas. He expressed the hope that the new campaign message, which sought to create an enabling environment for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, would achieve remarkable results.

Sharon L. Comer, Director of Mission, USAID, said "if we do not compassionately accept the presence of HIV and treat individuals affected by it with dignity and respect, we will not be able to stem the tide of this epidemic".

She said stigma and discrimination were crippling many HIV prevention and treatment efforts and, therefore, challenged all Ghanaians to make a personal commitment to themselves, their families and friends that "we will embrace and assist those who are infected and not discriminate or judge".

She said the campaign would serve as an important link in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country and around the world. Major Moses Adraku (rtd), President of the Ghana Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, said the best form of support one could give to people living with HIV/AIDS was to stop judging and singling them out because of their status.

Major Adraku said the PLWHA community saw stigma as a societal poison given to them due to inadequate knowledge about the epidemic that had resulted in irrational fear.

He, therefore, encouraged all PLWHAs to take up the responsibility of educating their communities on the epidemic and share with the public their experiences with HIV.

"We are those living with it and are in the best position to tell the story," he said.


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