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First Lady's NGO calls for free Anti-Retroviral Drugs
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Health News of Monday, 2 July 2007

Source: GNA

First Lady's NGO calls for free Anti-Retroviral Drugs

Accra, July 2, GNA - Mother and Child Community Development Foundation, the Non-Governmental Organization chaired by the First Lady, Mrs Theresa Kufuor, on Monday advocated free Anti-Retro Viral (ARV) drugs for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs).

The NGO said if the drugs could not be provided free of charge, then they should be put on the National Health Insurance Scheme so that more people would access them easily to improve their quality of life. Ms Nana Yaa Frimpong, Programme Coordinator of the Foundation, said this when she delivered a paper on "Improving the Quality of Life of the Deprived Woman and the Child", at the opening of the Fifth General Assembly of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS as part of the on-going African Union Summit.

She expressed the belief that when the drugs were made free or were easily accessible, people would be encouraged to declare their status since they could be sure that help was near. Ms Frimpong said the Foundation was presently assisting a number of PLWHAs with funds to access ARVs and treatment of other opportunistic infections.

"It is therefore necessary for the country to make available ARVs free for PLWHAs to enable more people to access treatment. Ms Frimpong urged queen mothers to continue to lead discussions in their communities that would help reduce the spread of the virus. "You are to serve as agents of change in your various communities," she said. She said the Foundation was intensifying its campaign on stigma reduction within the communities throughout the country. Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, said as at last April 7,338 clients were on the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) whilst current estimates indicated that over 71,000 people needed ART.

He said the death rate of people using ART was three per cent and that government had increased ART sites to 46 throughout the country. These included two teaching hospitals, nine regional hospitals, 14 district hospitals, the police and military hospitals and six private self financing institutions.

Prof. Amoa said government was promoting the use of condom against religious and cultural beliefs all in the bid to reduce the infection. "With the current national prevalence rate of 2.22 per cent, our ability to reduce or maintain the same level would depend largely on the extent of knowledge of the people of factors that promote the spread of the epidemic and the conduct of effective and well coordinated research into these factors," he said.

Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, called for the need to intensify sensitization, empower women, build their capacities and collaborate with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to respond to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

She noted that Ghana had attained gender parity at the primary school level and Statistical Ghana Services had also indicated that the general poverty had reduced form 42 per cent to 35 per cent and extreme poverty was down from 35 per cent to 19 per cent.

Hajia Mahama commended the members of OAFLA for their initiatives in the fight against HIV/AIDS and helping to lift the image of women. 2 July 07

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