West African Education Ministers meet on AIDS

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- Ghanaian Vice-President Aliu Mahama warned Monday that HIV/AIDS could wipe out Africa's productive age group and undermine socio-economic development unless political, financial, social and intellectual resources were mobilised to urgently stop the pandemic.
Opening a three-day Conference on HIV/AIDS for Education Ministers in West Africa and experts on the disease, Mahama recommended the use of formal and informal education to prevent the spread of the disease and provide treatment and support for infected victims.
Participants at the conference, organised jointly by Ghana's Ministry of Education and UNESCO are expected to propose strategies and identify best approaches and practices to be employed by the education sector to fight the disease.
Mahama said it was alarming that in the second decade of HIV/AIDS no cure or viable vaccine had been developed.
He said prevalence levels of the disease in Africa were very high citing Cote d'Ivoire, which has a prevalence rate of 10.
76 percent, Burkina Faso, 5.
44 percent and Togo 5.
98 percent.
Ghana has a prevalence rate of 3.
5 percent.
"The situation in our country, Ghana, is equally alarming.
It is reported that three percent of the population aged 15-49 years have been infected with the virus.
Currently, 200 people get infected daily and it is feared that if the rate continues, as many as 125 people will die each day by 2009," the Vice-President warned.
Last year, AIDS killed 2.
4 million adults in Africa and orphaned 11 million children.
Mahama said the situation was devastating for the continent struggling to overcome unfair trade regime, crippling debt burden, civil and tribal wars, poverty, hunger and diseases.
On the effect of the disease on professionals in the education sector and its consequences on human resource development, he said there was abundant evidence that the disease was destroying the social fabric of many communities and eating away at the economy through the death of teachers and other skilled workers.
"A recent study in Zimbabwe found that 19 percent of male teachers and almost 30 percent of female teachers were infected with HIV.
In Cote d'Ivoire, a teacher is lost with each passing day," Mahama said.
He said the decline in school enrolment, resulting from the withdrawal of children from schools to care for parents and family members, and the inability to pay school fees and other expenses, in addition to infected children not surviving to stay in schools were some of the most visible effects of the pandemic on the education sector.
Mahama therefore, urged the Ministers, whose sector accounts for the largest percentage of the population in most countries to explore opportunities, expertise, materials and resources to limit the effect of the disease, contracted mainly through sex in Africa.
By the end of 2001, some 40 million people were reported to be living with the virus, with 70 percent of the adults and 80 percent of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the ECOWAS Executive Secretary, in a speech read for him, said the time to act was now because most of the countries in the sub-region were very close to the five-percent explosion threshold.
According to him, countries in the region are among the least developed, and factors such as conflicts, poverty and human trafficking have conspired to fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS, a disease rivalled only by malaria in the region.
He called on development partners for support through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative.
Chambas said ECOWAS was re-organising its Secretariat to offer support to the outcome of the conference on education and HIV/AIDS.
Yoro Fall, a UNESCO Representative, said the fight against AIDS must be an integral part of the education systems, in line with the global vision of providing education for all by the year 2015.

21 october 2002 17:15:00

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