Women have to be at forefront in war against HIV/AIDS

Accra- Ghana (PANA) – As the world celebrates Worl-d AIDS Day on Saturday calls to put women at the forefront of the war against the pandemic are becoming louder This should be done through deeper education and empowerment at all areas of their lives.
"We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women by putting in place tools that will allow (them) to protect themselves, since they are the most vulnerable group with high infection rate," Abraham Dwumah Odoom, a Deputy Minister of Health, said.
Speaking at an African HIV/AIDS conference which ended in Accra on Friday, he said women needed to be empowered to be capable of negotiating safe sex, regardless of their socio-economic, religious or cultural status.
"This is true, whether the woman is faithful and a married mother, a sex worker; no matter where she lives, who she is or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life," Odoom stressed.
The conference was organised by Woyome Foundation for Africa (WOFA), a charity foundation registered in Ghana, and held under the theme, "Strengthening Interventions towards the Elimination of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
" About 150 representatives of National AIDS Commissions, NGOs working to fight HIV/AIDS, researchers, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and media advocates from all over Africa examined the trend of infection, various country policies and interventions, funding, research, access to antiretroviral therapies (ART) and best practices in various places.
According to statistics, sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other region of the world.
An estimated 22.
5 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2007 and approximately 1.
7 million additional people were infected with HIV during that year.
In 2006 the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.
6 million people.
More than 11 million children have been orphaned by AIDS.
Odoom said the continent must take drastic steps to halt the pandemic, saying current statistics on HIV/AIDS should send great shivers down the spine of all, especially African leaders, to push for stronger leadership roles and commitment towards the challenges ahead.
He noted that the message of prevention as preached a few years ago had to change, as infection rates soared in the developing world.
He said it was clear that preventive measures alone were not stemming the spread of the diseases.
Odoom noted that though governments had instituted various polices and programmes to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS, bearing the burden alone would be too enormous for them hence the role of stakeholders as well as the involvement of civil society organisations to ensure sustainable results.
He said notwithstanding the crucial role of women in prevention, the provision, care and treatment through a reliable supply of anti-retroviral drugs and other medically essential medicines with guaranteed long-term affordability should also be a crucial step to ensure successful treatment.
This would include encouraging local production, through voluntary licensing and technology transfer in countries with domestic drug manufacturing capacity and the purchase of medicines from lowest cost suppliers, including generic companies, to maximise the use of the available financial resources.
"It is critical that long-term sustainable solution to the crisis of lack of access to medicine be developed," Odoom said.

01 december 2007 12:11:00




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