General News of Wednesday, 27 November 2002
The Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa (SWAA-Ghana), a branch of SWAA International, which is committed to reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children in Africa, yesterday launched a female condom promotion campaign at the British Council in Accra.
Mrs. Charity Binka, President of SWAA-Ghana said the objective of the society is to use the introduction of the female condom to sensitize, educate and raise the awareness of Ghanaian women about the advantages associated with the use of the condom in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
She said in their quest to control their sexual lives, women should see the use of the female condom as a major breakthrough, "since there could be no talk about women empowerment without the talk about sexual and female reproductive health."
Mrs. Binka said with the introduction of the female condom, women are better guaranteed their safety and protection from Aids. She said with the female condom, a woman could take control of the number of children she wants to have. She said SWAA is promoting female condom use on a countrywide basis and has trained community based distributors like hairdressers, hoteliers, drinking bar operators among others in the use of the condom. Over 30,000 female condoms have so far been distributed through SWAA's networks in the ten regions of Ghana.
Mrs. Charlote Kanstrup, Counselor of Development at the Royal Danish Embassy, the co-sponsors of the campaign said the introduction of the female condom in Ghana has come at the right time especially when a report released by UNAIDS has revealed that 40 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide with more than 29 million out of the figure living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The same report, she said has also revealed that the number of female patients has for the first time exceeded that of the men.
She said in Ghana, 3.6% of the sexually active population is infected with HIV and women account for 63% of those infected. 75-82% of commercial sex workers in Accra and Kumasi were found to be infected with HIV. She said with these startling revelations the introduction of the female condom by SWAA will offer women an alternative method of protection and empower them to protect themselves in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She called on men to get involved in the fight and also acknowledge their responsibilities and women's right to prevention against AIDS. Mrs. Kanstrup reiterated her organization's commitment to help SWAA in the area of promoting gender sensitive HIV/AIDS prevention.
Dr. Joana Neequaye-Tetteh, Executive Director of PPAG, the guest of honour at the launch, in her keynote address said "women constitute 51% of the country's population, produce the bulk of total food consumed both in rural and urban areas, dominate the informal sector of the economy which employs majority of the active labour force and are increasingly becoming breadwinners in many households." She said "if the spread of HIV/AIDS is not curbed, especially with the use of the female condom, we will have fewer able-bodied women to feed the nation, look after the children and bring them up in ways that ensure they can take over and sustain life itself".
She said the female condom is effective especially in the country where violence against women is on the increase. "10-25% of women have experienced physical abuse from sex partners and between 12-25% have been forced by sexual partners at one time in their lives".
Mrs. Neequaye-Tetteh said most women are not in control and cannot protect themselves in sexual relationships hence the increase in female HIV/AIDS infection.
She commended SWAA for the promotion of the use of female condoms "since the use of female condoms, among other things, puts the woman in control of her reproductive system, makes her decide how many children to have at her own chosen time and also serves as an important barrier against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases".
SWAA donated a check of 164,000,000 cedis to the Fevers Unit of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.