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Africa Focus: Ghana seeks law to protect HIV persons

by Alex Osei-Boateng

ACCRA, Dec.12 (Xinhua) -- Ghana is instituting a law to address HIV and AIDS related stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses of persons living with HIV/AIDS, a senior official said on Friday.

Angela El-Adas, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, said the new bill will help the Ghanaian legislature to effect provisions in the constitution to address the situation.

"This is because sometimes it is a little difficult to do interpretation (of old laws) and use that to guide decisions which are taken whenever we have instances of human rights abuse or discrimination or stigma," she told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Currently, there is no specific national law to address issues of HIV/AIDS, leading to the abuse of the human rights of persons living with HIV in Ghana.

But experts have called on the country to codify all fragmented laws on HIV and AIDS in a single document to serve as a reference document for the national response.

They believe the passage of the law will protect person living with HIV and AIDS across Ghana.

Ghana has made giant strides towards achieving the set target of less than 5 percent new HIV infections by 2015.

The national HIV response in Ghana has achieved a lot of successes: the national prevalence has dropped from 3.6 percent to 1.3 percent over the decade, while treatment coverage for people living with HIV is now at 60 percent.

There has been a steady decline in prevalence among several groups including the youth, pregnant women, female sex workers and men who have sex with men. Ghana succeeded in reducing new infections in children by 76 percent over a three year period (2009-2012).

Ghana has also already achieved the 50 percent reduction in new HIV infections embarked upon in the last five years, and the country has been declared by UNAIDS as a leader in dealing with the epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, 50 percent of all HIV positive pregnant women are on effective treatment, while transfer rate of infection to babies has also reduced from 31 percent in 2009 to about 6 percent in 2014, meaning, now more than ever, 10,000 babies will be born free of HIV, and more mothers kept alive and healthy.

Despite these progresses, stigma and discrimination continue to be one of the main barriers hampering efforts at HIV testing, preventing disclosure of one's status and obstructing access to treatment and care services.

"We need to work and reduce stigma," said Lordina Mahama, the First Lady of Ghana, who is an Ambassador of the heart to heart campaign against HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

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