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General News of Monday, 28 November 2011

Source: Daily Graphic

25% of female sex workers are HIV positive

Twenty-five per cent of female sex workers (prostitutes) in the country are HIV positive, a latest survey by the Ghana AIDS Commission has revealed.

The commission has consequently cautioned men against patronising their activities as they face a high risk of infection.

At a media briefing in Kumasi Friday in connection with this year’s national celebration of the World AIDS Day at Obuasi on December 1, the Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr Angela El-Adas, said, “If you match the national prevalence rate of 1.6 per cent to that of the commercial sex workers, you can see that there is a real problem at hand.”

Globally, individuals who sell sex have been found to be at a very high risk of getting the disease.

It has been found out that generally, sex workers operate with a high number of sexual partners, a situation which meant that on becoming infected with the disease, they could potentially pass it on to multiple clients.

That is why in Ghana, the AIDS Commission had made the prevention of HIV infections among those involved in the sex trade an instrumental part of its activities.

Dr El-Adas said the commission had, for instance, made some sex workers peer educators as a way of preventing infections.

The theme chosen by UNAIDS for this year’s celebration of the World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero”. This was adopted from the UNAIDS’ global vision of zero new HIV infection, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Dr El-Adas touched on Ghana’s current national strategic plan (2011-2015), which emphasised among other things the unique challenges the nation faced in tackling the epidemic and said achieving the objectives should be a concerted effort. She stated that the 2011 World AIDS Day report issued by the UNAIDS showed that Ghana was among the five countries in the sub-region whose HIV prevalence had declined by more than 25 per cent.

The decline was attributed to factors including changes in sexual behaviour, especially among the youth, and the increase in condom use.

The Director General said even though the report was encouraging, it should not leave anyone to sleep, stressing, “We should rather work hard to bring the rate further down.”

She said the overall focus was to reduce infections by 50 per cent in the next five years accompanied by the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission as well as scaling up the proportion of people living with HIV who were on treatment.

She stressed the need for the elimination of stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with the disease.

Dr El-Adas commended the media for the work they were doing in the fight against the disease and urged them to work even harder in the years ahead to help meet the set goals.

The Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Nana Yaw Osei, pledged the continuous support of journalists in the region for the nation’s quest to address the challenges in all sectors of the economy.