Mr Yakubu Dramani, the Upper West Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC), has indicated that persons who suffer from gender-based violence (GBV) such as rape and defilement are at more risk of contracting HIV.
He said rape and defilement were forced without protection and victims could suffer bruises as a result, which increased their chances of contracting the virus if the perpetrator was a carrier of the virus.
Mr Dramani said this at the Upper West Regional commemoration of World Aids Day (WAD) at Jirapa.
The celebration was characterized by a float along some principal streets of Jirapa with participants wielding placards some of which read: “Be Bold Get Tested”, “Safe sex lets end AIDS by 2030”, “HIV has no cure” among others.
December 1 every year is observed as WAD to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who had died from AIDS-related illnesses, with this year’s commemoration on the theme: “End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics.”
Mr Dramani explained that 80 per cent of HIV transmission was through unprotected sex with an infected person, 15 per cent was through mother-to-child transmission and five per cent was through infected sharp objects.
The Technical Coordinator stressed the need for regular testing to know one’s status to take the necessary precautions against it.
He also entreated persons who tested positive for the virus to be on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) to enable them to suppress the virus and to live a normal life.
“Stigmatising and discriminating against persons with HIV put all of us at risk, but if we support them and they go for the drugs, they will achieve viral suppression, which means they will have the virus alright but they can’t transmit to anyone,” Mr Dramani explained.
Madam Marcelline K. Babang-yel, the Upper West Regional Chairperson of NAP+, attributed the inability of the country to meet its HIV target to the high stigmatisation and discrimination against persons living with HIV.
She said stigmatization discouraged people from testing to know their status as well as going for the medication in the event they tested positive for the virus.
“Persons with HIV should be supported to give off their best, they are human just like you,” she said.
She also called on the District Assemblies to continue to offer financial support to persons living with HIV to enable them to form support groups and to access support services.
“Every one of us here has a role to play to ensure that we end inequalities by stopping HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination”, Mr Nicholas Soyiri, the Jirapa Municipal Chief Executive, said.
He said the GAC Act 2016 (Act 938) guaranteed the protection of the rights of people infected with HIV and AIDS, including their rights to work and education, among others.
He added that the Act criminalised HIV related stigma and discrimination, saying, “In spite of the numerous policies and intensified education campaign…stigma continues to be a bane to the national response.”
Available data from the GAC indicated that the Upper West Region had HIV prevalence rate of 1.1 per cent with the Wa Municipal having the highest prevalence rate of 1.5 per cent and Lambussie District having the lowest rate of 0.6 per cent.
Daffiama-Bussie-Issa District has a prevalence rate of 1.1 per cent, Jirapa 0.8 per cent; Lawra 1.2 per cent, Nadowli-Kaleo 0.9 per cent; Nandom 1.3 per cent, Sissala East 1.0 per cent, Sissala West 0.9; Wa East 1.0 and Wa West District 0.8 per cent.