“I was happily married till my husband died in 2007. I decided to remarry. The decision to remarry was a hard one but I did marry anyway” said Afia (not her real name).
A 40-year-old woman said, this single decision rather ruined her happiness after she realized she would have to live on Anti-Retro Viral (ARV) drugs and special diet for the rest of her life. “Life has never been normal with me again but I strive to live with the help of ARV” she said.
Taking a deep sigh! a single mother with three children and living with HIV and AIDs virus, lamented how she will have to live on special diet for the rest of her life. Her food stuff business has also collapsed too because her customers believed in the misconception that they would be infected with the HIV virus if they buy from her. Afia is currently facing the problem of managing HIV and AIDS virus, stigmatization and marginalization.
She lamented, “I only got to know about my second husband’s extra marital relationship after his death” “One of his sexual partners had infected him with the virus” she added She suffers marginalization and discrimination and in some cases verbal abuses. Though Afia has been on ARV drugs, her health has not been stable not because of HIV and AIDS virus, but the stigmatization.
The attitude of many Ghanaians towards people living with HIV and AIDs also reinforces the idea that contracting the virus is a sentence for people’s behavior. Ghanaians are also failing to recognize the fundamental issues that force people into difficult conditions, furthering widespread of HIV and AIDS
This, a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights trainer and activist, Abdul-Rashid Imoro said was not healthy and could make it difficult to manage the spread of HIV and AIDs and STIs infections in Ghana.
Abdul-Rashid Imoro, SRHR programme Manager at Savana Signatures said “Our silence to talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights with young people at home and in school is contributing to the widespread of infections and stigmatization”.
Addressing hundreds of people during the Northern Regional Celebration of 2015 World AIDS Day held in Walewale, Imoro urged Ghanaians to relax religious and cultural beliefs and constantly engage young people in SRHR conversation to help them make informed decisions about their sexuality. This, Imoro said was the only way to curb the spread of HIV and STIs infections.
He added that many parents have inadequate knowledge about the physical and emotional developments of young people during adolescents and thus hide under religion and culture to avoid discussions around sexual and reproductive health issues with the children.
He therefore urged NGO’s, CSO’s and CBO’s to target parents, community leaders as well as religious leaders for SRHR sensitization.
The HIV and AIDs prevalence rate for Northern Region stands at 0.6 percent according to the Regional Health Directorate of Ghana Health Service.
This figure, Imoro said is too high for Northern Region whose people claimed to be upholding religious and cultural morality. He said, the seemingly increasing number of infections was due to the lack of SRHR education and information to support young people to make informed decisions about their sexuality.
“Based on this, Savana Signatures initiated Sexual Health Education plus (SHE+) that offers opportunity to young people in Ghana to access SRHR information through the use of mobile phone at a distance. We are motivated by the high rate of mobile phone penetration in Ghana to initiate this programme”, he said.
The overall objective of SHE+ is geared towards access to reproductive health and rights information by young people. But this efforts Imoro added, would work greatly if Ghanaians begin comprehensive sexuality education at home and in school.
He advised young people to make use of the platform which he said was convenient, private and easy to use and to guide themselves with the slogan “No condom, No sex”. He also encouraged young people to frequently test for their HIV status which he said was quick, easy, painless, confidential and almost always free.