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Entrenched stigma and discrimination pushing persons living with HIV and AIDS into hiding


By: Rachel Kakraba and Henrietta Afful

Ghana AIDS Commission has expressed worry about continued stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses which persons living with HIV suffer from in Ghanaian society. According to the Commission the trend which is entrenched in communities pushes many Persons who live with the disease into hiding thereby not accessing the much-needed healthcare.

This came up at a two-day workshop for some selected journalists at Peduase in the Eastern Region.

The two-day training programme brought together journalists from across the country on effective reportage on HIV and AIDS.

Topics discussed included Ghana’s national HIV and AIDS response strategy, right use of terminologies and promoting rights of persons living with HIV among others.

Speaking in an interview, Director Technical Services at the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Fred Nana Poku rallied support of the media to shed light on the disease and especially means of spread to cause attitudinal change amongst citizens.

He was unhappy that persons living with HIV continue to suffer stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses. He therefore asked the media to lead the charge in demystifying some myths and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

“The media is a very important platform to reach numerous people because they are pluralistic and they have the influence. So we decided to engage them in this training session on the myths and misconceptions about HIV and the human right abuses that goes on”

Dr. Poku, asked persons who live with HIV to follow strictly with their medication to ensure their general well-being.

He said the Ghana AIDS Commission will work round the clock to ensure HIV is no longer a public health threat.

Dr. Fred Nana Poku

The USAID Ghana Health Office Director, Zohra Baisara, touting the role of the media in Ghana’s HIV and AIDS response was confident that the training will improve understanding of journalists for accurate reportage. This she noted would better equip them to support broader engagement with policy makers and the public.

“We believe that journalists play an important role in shaping public perceptions about HIV and AIDS, because of this the media cannot be left out of our efforts to educate citizens”

She said accurate reportage will prevent misinformation and support community education to reduce stigma.

The National Organizer of the Ghana Journalists Association, GJA, Dominic Hlodzi, encouraged beneficiary journalists to impact knowledge acquired to other colleagues.

“Discrimination and stigmatization are sending person’s living with HIV to their graves and we have to stop that. We are expecting the participants to do a lot more on their stories relating to HIV and AIDS particularly about stigma and discrimination, so that what we aim to achieve that is ending stigmatization will be achieved”

Mr. Hlordzi, pledged commitment of the GJA to look for other training opportunities for journalists.

For her part, the Public Affairs Officer of the Ghana Journalists Association, Rebecca Ekpe commended PEPFAR, Send-Ghana and its partners for organising the training to equip journalists.

She urged beneficiary journalists to work hard to promote the success stories of persons living with HIV, the effectiveness of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) and the need to end all forms of stigmatization and discrimination while highlighting the work of the GAC and its partners.

“As communicators, we help shape the minds and actions of many people by using innovative ways to surmount these health challenges. Together we can help to destigmatize HIV and AIDS and that can also contribute significantly to curbing the spread of this disease” the Spokesperson of the GJA, Rebecca Ekpe said.

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. The disease, if not treated can lead to AIDS.

Although the disease is not a death sentence, ignorance, fear and the lack of knowledge among others has seen people living with the disease suffer stigma, discrimination and other human rights abuses meted out to them.

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