Personnel of health facilities in the Central Region last year, counseled and tested for HIV 56,211 expectant mothers who visited the facilities.

Of the total number, 619 tested positive for HIV and 430 were put on the Anti Retroviral Treatment including their babies who were born HIV positive.

Dr. Ebenezer Koomson, Central Regional HIV Coordinator at the Ghana Health Directorate, made this known over the weekend at the end of a three-day workshop organized by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) for about 50 journalists across the Central Region in Cape Coast.

The workshop was to help the journalists to improve upon their reporting skills on issues concerning HIV and AIDS and also enable them properly to educate the public on these issues.

According to Dr. Koomson between January and December 2011, a total of 122 infants had been exposed to HIV in the region and that 79 of them were screened after 18 months with one testing positive for HIV.

He said between January and June this year, a total of 112 infants were exposed to the virus and 34 tested for HIV after 18 months with three of them testing positive.

He described these incidents as unfortunate and gave the assurance that efforts were being put in place to check them and that as at December 2010, the Region had trained a total of 605 service providers in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).

He said aside HIV, Syphilis was another Sexually Transmitted Disease (STI) with high prevalence in the Region and that between January and December last year, a total of 35,934 persons were tested for syphilis and 1079 of the number tested positive of which 1067 had been treated.

Dr. Koomson said some key strategies adopted to reduce the spread of these STIs included the involvement of other stakeholders like traditional leaders and students, integrated collection of drugs and other logistics, prudent monitoring and management of resources as well as the organization of social and media advocacy with both public and private media.

Mr. Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, Projects Manager at the GAC, talked about stigma and discrimination of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and said a UNAIDS led PLHIV Stigma Index carried out in nine countries in Asia Pacific Region in 2011 identified some effects of stigma such as feeling of disgrace, lack of respect, denial of community participation, violence (physical and emotional), loss of employment and education as well as denial of marriage.

He said measures put in place to check these cases of stigma and discrimination included the formation of an anti-stigma Task Team, engagement of CHRAJ to track and document abuses against PLHIV, media training to ensure accurate reportage and reduce sensationalism in matters affecting most at risk populations (MARPs) and PLHIV.

Other measures included training of members of the judiciary and law enforcement on human rights issues and the use of PLHIV as ?Ambassadors? to tell their story while providing hope and also motivating others to access HIV related services and improve their attitudes.

Dr. Fred Nana Poku, Technical Manger, GAC pointed out that stigma was the main reason too many people were afraid to check their HIV status or to seek treatment at health facilities, stressing ?this is making AIDS the silent killer because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it?.

He noted that a person?s HIV status should not adversely impact his or her career progression and that HIV positive staff should have the same opportunities as anyone else and urged the media to use their mediums to address the issue of stigma and discrimination.

Mr John Eliasu Mahama, Technical Support Coordinator at the Commission also took journalists through ?terminology guidelines for AIDS AND HIV?, saying the use of appropriate language had the power to strengthen the response to the HIV epidemic and that terminologies kept evolving and there was therefore the need to review them on regular basis.

Source: GNA

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