As the world marks forty years since the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported, there is still an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases recorded daily in Ghana.
The 2020 National and Sub-National HIV/AIDS report estimates 346,120 people living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana with 34 percent representing males and 66 percent females. Also, the report indicates new infections rate of 18 percent among males and 83 percent among females.
Since the past two years, the world with Ghana not been an exception has been challenged with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated inequalities, particularly among young people in accessing health care services.
As part of efforts to end HIV/AIDS, this year’s World AIDS Day, which was on the theme ‘End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.’, provided an opportunity for Savana Signatures to cement their gains in empowering young people to live healthy lives, by embracing good health-seeking behaviors to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS particularly among adolescents.
The organization with support from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), under the Youth Empowerment Project, carried out school sensitizations in 36 beneficiary schools in the South and Central Tongu District in the Volta Region of Ghana.
The initiative seeks to increase awareness among adolescents on the current statistical data on HIV/AIDS among youth groups, and also provide the essential knowledge and information on HIV/AIDS that will empower adolescents to make informed decisions and take action of protecting themselves.
A series of activities were conducted including Health education in partnership with Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Ghana Education Service (GES) on HIV/AIDS.
This was coupled with the distribution of posters on HIV/AIDS in project schools.
In addition, the initiative took into consideration young people online, thus engaging them through social media – Savsign TV – discussion on the theme ‘End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics’.
The panel discussions centered on HIV/AID prevention and importance of getting tested.
Patience Buahin, Northern Regional Health Promotion Officer, in addressing HIV/AIDS issues on SavSign TV, revealed that the rate of testing for HIV is increasing among adults.
However, she cannot say same for adolescents. She attributed the hesitance in testing among adolescents to fear, stigma and discrimination.
It is against this backdrop that she made known of more centres that have been set up in Senior High Schools across the country to encourage adolescents in testing and seeking HIV/AIDS services.
She encouraged young people to face their fears and utilize the centres to test and get more information on HIV/AIDS prevention.
“HIV/AIDS is real and increasing, hence young people should protect themselves through abstinence or use of condom, and equally avoid risky behaviors,” she said.
Also, she admonished young people to avoid sharing sharp objects like blades, toothbrushes etc. and should ensure machines used for tattoo designs and in barbering saloons are sterilized.
“HIV/AIDS is not a killer, it is just like any other disease that requires you to protect yourself or take drugs and live a normal and healthy life,” she added.
She urged the public, especially relatives, to avoid stigmatizing and discriminating against HIV/AIDS patients and rather support them with the needed association, love and care to live comfortable lives.
She called on parents to support their children living with HIV/AIDS with love and care, and as well as educate young people on preventive methods.
The Youth Empowerment Project Manager, Elikem Agbenyo, also stressed the need for young people to call the SHE+ Helpline Tollfree number 0800 00 11 22 for timely and confidential access to reproductive health including HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence information, counseling and referral services to health facilities and social justice institutions across the country.