Feature Article of Sunday, 29 December 2002
Columnist: Boafo, Yaw Owusu-Ansah
Socio-economic effect of HIV/AIDS in Ghana
Globally, the World Aids day was observed on the 1st December 2002 with demonstrations, route marches, concerts and seminars. However, the affected and infected individuals of HIV/AIDS and their families marked the occasion in silence. Paradoxically, only a day is set aside yearly to provide the HIV/AIDS awareness crusades. Nonetheless, the virus/disease do not stop on 1st December each year because its ramifications stay with the victims, their families and the nations concerned in perpetuity because there is no cure for the disease at the moment.
HIV/AIDS is not just a health issue. It is also a social, developmental and economical issue. The impact has a huge repercussion for development in Africa. According to Commonwealth Rights Initiative Report (2001), “The HIV epidemic adversely affect growth rate in complex ways not least by killing off the most productive in their prime.” Life expectancy has fallen in the worst affected countries especially in Southern Africa. For example, in South Africa a woman with life expectancy of 54 in 1999, would survive only until the age of 37 by 2010, and men could expect to live until they are 38. In Zambia, one fifth of adult population are HIV positive (2002). The pandemic is being declared by the United Nation programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be Africa’s worst killer.
Ghana: HIV/AIDS facts and figures
When HIV/AIDS was first identified in Ghana in March 1986, the National rate of infection was 1.5%. Today, the prevalent rate is 3.6%. Since then, more than 52, 961 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in the health institutions in Ghana. This represents 30% of cases in the country as majority of the victims patronise the traditional health centres, prayer camps and others do not report their illnesses due to the fear of stigma and discrimination. Therefore, non-reported cases of HIV/AIDS are more than the reported cases in Ghana. This means the prevalent rate of 3.6% in the country is misleading because majority of carriers of HIV infections are difficult to be identified in the country. It has been reported that about 130 people in Ghana contract Aids daily and it is estimated that 125 people would die from the dreadful disease daily by the year 2009 if the rate of infection continues at 3.6% (Ghana Aids Commission). The prevalent rate in the West African sub-region ranges between 5% to 11%. For example, Ivory Coast has 9.7% infection rate, Burkina Faso has 6.5%, Togo has 6%, Benin has 3.6% and Nigeria has 5.8%. According to Population Action International (PAI) 2001, 330,000 Ghanaians within the age group of 15-49 years are living with HIV/Aids.
The impact of HIV/AIDS on households, families and the Nation is immense. The very fabric of Ghanaian society can tear apart because of intense burden of suffering among individual families. For example, in cases of prolonged illnesses, livelihood is lost and all family members have to bear the blunt of caring. Business and school suffer when the most productive sector of society (human resources) aged between (15-49) are lost to HIV/AIDS related illnesses.
Already, 160,000 children in Ghana have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS (Ghana AIDS Commission). If care is not taken, more people would be infected and additional children would be orphaned in the next five years. Without the appropriate social and life skills, these children will not be equipped as adults to drive the economic engine of Ghana making the struggle for development and growth even tougher. The orphans might not have any education to become responsible members of society; this may lead them to become wayward citizens indulging in social vices like drug taking, crime, prostitution etc. The loss of young adults in their productive years would affect Ghana overall economic performance in agriculture, commerce and industry.
As the majority of HIV/AIDS cases recorded in Ghana and the world are females, this has serious social and economic implications to the country as well. Professor Sakyi-Amoah (Director of Ghana AIDS commission) commenting on the pandemic has said that the high incidence among women in Ghana would affect the government’s policy of women in agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
President J.A. Kufour:
Speaking at the Golden Jubilee celebration of Opoku ware secondary in Kumasi (2002), the President of Ghana, H.E John Agyekum Kufour said that any INVESTMENT individuals, parents, communities as well as the nation make will NOT yield the expected results if: “ We fail to wake up to the challenges posed by the DEADLY HIV/AIDS pandemic”.
Professor Amoah (2002) has predicted that Ghana’s rate of 3.6% HIV/AIDS could go up if we fail to adopt more PROACTIVE measures.
We have to safeguard the future generation of Ghana from extinction. Therefore, it cannot be over-emphasised that it requires ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT of ALL Ghanaians both at home and DISAPORA to fight the killer disease (HIV/AIDS).