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General News of Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Discrimination against persons living with HIV to attract jail term

Those who act in ways deemed to be discriminatory against persons living with HIV/AIDS could serve up to three years in jail, a new Ghana AIDS Commission law passed by Parliament prescribes.

The punishment extends to those who deny burial for persons suspected or perceived to have died with the disease as well as persons who disclose information about the HIV/AIDS status of another person.

According to the provisions of the law, which helps to address issues of stigma, they apply to persons who deny or exclude a person suspected or perceived to be HIV positive from insurance, retirement, social security benefits, or any other rights of the affected persons.

Also, the new law frowns on discrimination against infected employees as well as institutions which deny educational rights to a person on the basis of actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status of that person.

The Act prohibits the denial of persons infected with the virus the right to be elected to a public office or the right to vote on account of the HIV/AIDS status of that person.

Persons living with the disease shall also not be denied the freedom of movement, right of residence, right to sexual and reproductive health, or right to a family.

Further, the Act also gives the Ghana AIDS Commission a legal backing and proposes the establishment of the National HIV and AIDS Fund.

An elated HIV ambassador, Reverend John Azumah shared his experience with Joy News’ Maxwell Agbagba, on how the fear of stigmatization is forcing some persons living with HIV to travel long distances just to access anti-retroviral drugs from designated health facilities.

He said when he tested HIV positive some 16 years ago, there were no anti-retroviral drugs in the country.

"The doctors said we were going to die so if we have any property we should go and sell them so we were living on our fate and some herbs," he said.

He revealed that the people he counsels prefer treatment far away from where they stay or are known due to discrimination.