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Health News of Monday, 11 February 2008

Source: GNA

Dedicate Valentine Day to People with HIV/AIDS

Abeadze Dominase (C/R), Feb. 11, GNA - The Central Regional HIV/AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Focal Person, Mr Ishmael Nana Ogyefo, has suggested to Ghanaians to dedicate the Valentine Day to People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

Nana Ogyefo said churches, societies and organizations should use the day to collect gifts for distribution to PLWHA. "Let us use the day for a worthy cause instead of promoting promiscuity," he said at a durbar at Abeadze Dominase in the Mfantseman District of the Central Region.

The durbar was to offer a team from Safe Haven Project (SHP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in the United States of America that was on a visit to educate people on HIV/AIDS, the platform to meet the people.

The five-member team, which included people living with the virus, was in the country as guests of the Central Region AIDS Committee and Charles Aikins' Live and Let's Live Foundation, a local NGO. Mr David Butler, the Executive Director of Safe Haven Project and leader of the team, said during a visit to the country in 2004, he realized that a lot of people doubted the existence of the virus. He said this had compelled his organization to bring down people with the virus to use their personal experiences and testimonies to make the "Doubting Thomases" to believe that the virus was real. One of them, who had been with the virus for about 24 years, is stout and bulky.

Miss Chelsea Gulden, who said she was infected with the virus at the age of 17 by her fianc=E9e when she was a student of a university four years ago, looked strong and healthy. Miss Gulden said she nearly committed suicide when she tested HIV positive because of fear of stigmatization and discrimination. She said with encouragement of some friends and relatives, she abandoned the idea.

Miss Gulden said because she did not hide her status she was able to get help from medical staff when she became pregnant to protect the baby from getting infected.

Ms Diana Baberee, a Ghanaian living with the virus who accompanied the team, said she was infected by her late husband about 10 years ago. Ms Baberee said because she disclosed her status she had got a lot of help in her medication, got a lover who is also a carrier of the virus and they got married last December. "Loneliness has some psychological effect on a person so I will urge people living with the virus disease but have no wife or husband to look for partners among themselves so that they can support each other when necessary," she said.

She however cautioned them against unprotected sex since it could increase the viral loads in their bodies. Mr Jonathan Benefo, Mfantseman HIV/AIDS Focal Person, cautioned against promiscuity as they might not know a carrier of the virus. Dasebre Kwebu Ewusi VII, Omanhene of Abeadze Traditional Area who chaired the function, called on Ghanaians not to see the disease as a punishment or a curse but to offer love and support to them.

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