The quest to have 9 out of every 10 people who are living with HIV know their status was given a further boost during the just ended New Patriotic Party (N.P.P) Congress.
The Eastern Regional office of the Ghana AIDS Commission mounted a stand and encouraged participants and the general public who had thronged to the Koforidua Technical University to take part in the HIV Testing Services that were being offered.
For the period of the 26th National Delegates Congress of the ruling New Patriotic Party 1,030 accessed the services. They were made up of 622 males and 408 females ranging between the ages of 18 and 65. The program attracted over 6000 delegates and 2000 party faithful. Ms Golda Asante, a Technical Coordinator TSU, said about 8 people out of every 10 of the number that tested were in their youth between the ages of 18 and 45. She described it as positive in the effort to achieve the first 90 under the Agenda 90-90-90.
The Agenda 90-90-90 is a global goal to response positively to HIV and AIDS. Per the goal, by 2020, 9 out of every 10 people in Ghana would have tested and known their HIV status; 9 out of every 10 of those who are positive would be Antiretroviral treatment and care; and 9 out of every 10 people would have achieved viral suppression.
According to Ms Asante, her office will take advantage of every outdoor event to make available testing services to the public, giving Akuapem Odwira and the Kwahu Easter festivities as examples, where they have extended the HIV services to the public.
People who react, and are confirmed to be positive are referred to health facilities where they are monitered and put on ART treatment and care.
She urged the public to get tested since it is the surest way to stay safe.
By : Sylvanus Gatorwu. Copy right (c) July 2018 for MJA-GH
Tell it moms, – an all women group that began as a social media group has held a conference in Koforidua to educate themselves on various issues of concern to mothers.
Speaking to the MJA, President of the Zone 17, Ohenenanayere obaapamimi Asare, which was created on 7th December, last year with 4 members, said, the Zone in Koforidua would be launched during the program.
She urged parents to be careful with how they place medicines in the home to reduce the risk of children mistakenly drinking same.
She urged women to join the organization to benefit from the various knowledge base of the various professionals in the group.
Speaking on Challenges in Marriage and how to overcome them, Lawyer (Mrs) Nana Gyankomah took time to educate the ladies on how to have peaceful marriages.
She revealed that, whatever men do during dating is repeated in marriage. “The problem is that, you think your man would change when you get married, what makes you think he would change?”
Touching on how women should respond to men who cheat in a way that would save their marriages and not ruin them further, “As a woman, you should learn to put your message across” she said.
Adding “Communication is key, the man is head of the house, submission is difficult, but you should learn to submit at all times, not sometimes.”
Lawyer Gyankomah stated that, in all situations, wives should respect their husbands.
“Don’t let issues overtake your responsibility, even when he is wrong, you have every reason to be angry, but there is a way to do it, if you don’t handle issues properly, you would destroy the evidence that you have”
She adviced participants present not to leave their homes to fight other women who they suspect are their husbands’ “sidechicks”
According to her, “when you do that, you have gone outside your jurisdiction”
Other topics treated at the gathering included “causes of Home Accidents and its prevention”
“Challenges in Marriage and how to overcome them”, “Healthy eating and how to prepare ‘quick’ healthy snacks” and “Substance abuse and its effects”
It seem the next human home will be the ‘’new earth’’ as NASA is on a journey to Mars, with the aim of sending humans to one of the planet (discovered arguably in 1610, as a result of first telescopic observation by Galileo Galilei) which is often refers to as the ‘’Red Planet’’ in the 2030s. That trip is already well under way as indicated by NASA. Since the discovery that there could be existence of life on Mars, NASA has carried out a number of expeditions to investigate such phenomenon till date. The idea of life existence is constantly being carried out with much astronaut sent out already as the vision and conclusion about life on Mars seems to be feasible.
A report has been release by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in it article “Journey to Mars”. The editor claimed that, the journey describe a variety of programs NASA worked on from 2008-2016 that would help send humans to Mars in the 2030s. As published, the release of National Space Policy Directive-1 on Dec. 11, 2017, majority of the programs under that label ‘’Journey to Mars’’ were with the aim of returning astronauts to the Moon as a focus in preparation for human missions to Mars.
The publication announcement stated that ‘’For decades, the agency and its partners have sent orbiters, landers and rovers, dramatically increasing our knowledge about the Red Planet and paving the way for future human explorers. The Curiosity rover (automated motor vehicle research gadget) has gathered radiation data to help us protect future astronauts, and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover will study the availability of Martian resources, including oxygen’’.
There is more to learn as NASA thrive humanity’s presence into the solar system. We need to learn; Was Mars once home to microbial life or is it today? Can it be a safe home for humans? What can the Red Planet(Mars) teach us about our own planet’s past, present and future?
The paper explained that as a result of continuing and building on the robotic legacy, the human exploration attempt of Mars crosses three thresholds and each threshold come with increasing challenges as humans move farther from Earth. The three thresholds regarded as: Earth Reliant, the Proving Ground, and Earth Independent.
Earth Reliant exploration is focused on research aboard the International Space Station. The orbiting microgravity laboratory serves as a world-class test bed for the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space. Astronauts are learning about what it takes to live and work in space for long periods of time, increasing the NASA researchers understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health.
The NASA indicated that the Mars expedition includes commercial crew and cargo partners to provide access to low-Earth orbit and eventually stimulate new economic activity, allowing NASA to continue using the station while preparing for missions beyond.
This prepared the ground which usher in the next threshold, thus the Proving Ground. This is characterize by conducting a series of missions near the moon…known as “cislunar space’’ . . . that will test the capabilities the NASA Mars expedition team will need to live and work at Mars. The editor Jim Wilson has indicated in the paper that ‘’Astronauts on the space station are only hours away from Earth, but the proving ground is days away, a natural stepping stone to a Mars mission, which will be months away from home.The first of these missions will launch NASA’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will carry the Orion spacecraft (without astronauts) thousands of miles beyond the moon during an approximately three week mission . Next up, astronauts will climb into Orion for a similar mission, travelling farther than humans have ever travelled before’’.
It’s expected that in the 2020s, NASA will send astronauts on a yearlong mission into this deep space proving ground, verifying habitation and testing the crew’s readiness for Mars full exploration and findings.
Another proving ground milestone stated is the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA again will displace a robotic spacecraft to capture an asteroid boulder ( Asteroids rock fragment) and put it in a safe route around the moon. Astronauts on Orion will then explore the asteroid, returning to Earth with samples. It’s good to acknowledge that, this two-part mission will test both deep space space walking and sampling techniques and Solar Electric Propulsion, which require that NASA will send cargo as part of human missions to Mars.
At last, then introduced the threshold 3 phase, which allowed NASA to become Earth Independent, building on what has been learned on the space station and in deep space to send humans to low-Mars orbit in the early periods of 2030s.
The Earth Independence phase, will also enable NASA to test the entry, descent and landing techniques needed to get to the Martian surface and study what’s needed for original resource utilization or “living off the land.” It has been reported that ‘’NASA is already studying potential “Exploration Zones” on Mars that would offer compelling science research and provide resources our astronauts can use’’.
NASA publication has iterated that Science missions are already in the Independent phase, with the next rover ( automated motor vehicle that propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars upon arrival) due in 2020. It’s concluded that NASA will also conduct a round-trip robotic demonstration mission with sample return in the late 2020s.
With this exploration mission, it is fascinating that Mars is the next tangible frontier for human exploration, and it’s an achievable goal. The question left perhaps unanswered is, could Mars be the next home of the 22nd century human? Will man kind eventually move to their new ‘’Earth’’?, What will be it consequences of living there? Will it offer a better habitation for man alone or with it other living creatures included? Which class or category of the human race will settle on the red planet should it be that it’s habitable and support life?. A lot will unfold after the Mars 2020s and 2030s works by NASA. There are challenges to pioneering Mars, but NASA has said, such challenges are solvable.
The human generation perhaps led by NASA are well on their way to getting there, landing there, and living there.
Stigmatization of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) has really not been on the decline but rather, made a fast progression as a result of the ineffectiveness of the GAC ACT 2015. PLHIV suffer from low self-esteem, as a result of being treated with condemnation, disgust by healthcare providers, family and the society at large while others however undergo self-stigmatization.
At the recent National HIV&AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) 2018 organized by GAC on 8th-11th May held at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), Nana Otuo Siriboe II, the chairman of the conference in his opening remark stated that “As a traditional ruler, I have identified stigma as a major challenge in the response to HIV”. He then further pledged his personal support to use his office to help provide a positive response to HIV.
HIV Patients can be discouraged from continuously visiting the pharmacy for their drugs because of perhaps stigmatization from the pharmacist, dispensing technician or any other healthcare provider.
In her account, a 52 year-old patient once stated that she had decided to give up on her treatment process because she was being seen in the hospital as a street woman who had betrayed her husband. This, according to her, made her feel like she was being labeled a prostitute.
At the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), HIV patients have a dedicated pharmacy where they are exclusively attended to. This minimizes the fear of public stigmatization and also creates accessibility for the already huge number of PLHIV’s seeking treatment.
According to a Medical laboratory scientist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital’s Fevers unit, the unit used to have a specialized private section for the rich and prestigious who visit for healthcare. This was done to protect their image. He however stated that, such special services do not officially exist anymore although some rich patients still book for private sessions with some doctors on non-clinic days. In spite of the massive awareness and educational efforts invested over the years in order to reduce the stigma associated with carrying the virus, people still feel stigmatized to be identified with it.
Three HIV infected patients, Kojo, Kwame, and Adwoa, who were interviewed on the issue of stigmatisation, had the following to say;
‘’For me, I am aware of the stigmatization, however, for my condition it’s only my mother who knows about it and I do not talk about it with others. I have been living with the condition for the past 3 years. The medical doctor who attended to me, cautioned me not to tell anyone except for my mother who already knows. Even if I go to another hospital, I should not mention that I have HIV but if the attending clinician found out himself, that’s okay’’. Asked whether he had felt stigmatized in any form by dispensers at the HIV treatment centre he said, ‘’So far, they have been good at their work and they interact well with us”.
On the account of Kwame, he said ‘’ since I was diagnosed with the condition, only my senior sister and mother are aware. No one else knows about my condition and so far I have not had any stigmatization encounter with the counsellors and dispensers here at Korle-Bu’’.
‘’Since I was diagnosed with the condition, Korle-Bu has been my treatment centre and I have not experienced any stigmatization issues with the dispensers. The only problem I have is with my grandchildren. I am always afraid to carry them because I’m afraid I may transmit the virus to them although I’m aware that’s not possible. Perhaps it’s my perception or maybe my conscience.’’ said Adwoa.
Whilst some patients feel stigmatized by health workers and the society, others undergo self-stigmatization. This group of people (self-stigmatized), feeling ashamed and embarrassed with their condition, mask their faces with sunglasses and large hats in their bid to conceal it, when they come for healthcare or even dissociate themselves from their families.
According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Team on AIDS (Joint Team) in 2016 supported Ghana in achieving the 90-90-90 targets and championed the passing of the Ghana AIDS Commission Act of 2015 (GAC Act) by the National Assembly on 18 October 2016. Amongst the provisions made by the Act is the provision for anti-stigma and discrimination as well as the protection of the rights of PLHIV. How much of this has been flouted so far? Has there been any punitive measures taken against those (including health care providers) who discriminate against HIV patients seeking healthcare? Are the HIV patients who are duly represented by this Act of law fully aware of their rights? These are thought-provoking questions to ponder upon.
In a study conducted to ascertain the perception of Ghanaian Pharmacists towards people living with HIV/AIDS, only 17% of pharmacists had favourable attitudes towards them.
Pharm Elaine Adovi Awumee of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) stated that Ghana is nowhere near the anti-stigmatization campaign. She acknowledged that, although formerly, Ghana was doing well due to the public education and campaign, the country is back to its initial position were stigmatization against HIV/AIDS patients is still a yet-to-be-won battle. “The stigmatization is so obvious, even colleagues with whom I worked during my first job placement thought I had been infected because I helped and counselled HIV/AIDS patients.” She added.
Pharm Awumee iterated that, to help stop or reduce the stigmatization, the country would need to re-visit its campaign against public stigmatization.
Mrs Sabina Ansah a Health Educator/Counsellor, and anti-retroviral drug dispenser at the Pharmacy unit of KBTH, had this to say, ‘’I have been dispensing this drug for the past 6 years. Among the health practitioners I have come to work with, we do not stigmatize HIV patients, and as a way of making them feel loved, we take their gifts when they offer them’’. She however admitted that patients do think otherwise of them as a patient once confessed, ‘’I thought if I give you a gift you will not take it because of my condition”. She will then reassure the patients by telling them she is equally a human being and their condition was just like any other infection.
Life should not end after testing positive for HIV. Deliberate efforts should be made towards improving the lives of all PLHIVs in the country as the President for PLHIV, Emmanuel Beluzebr Suukure rightly said.Let’s jointhe fight against stigmatization. Let’s advocate for a more effective policy and offenders should not be allowed to go scot free. Efforts should be intensified to build capacity of religious and traditional leaders as well as healthcare givers for community mobilization and advocacy against all forms of social exclusion as well as strengthening solidarity among PLHIVs for collective action.
Disclaimer: While every attempt has been made to verify the information provided in this report story, any reference to any person, organization or business whether living or dead is purely coincidental. In as much as the accounts of the patients use in this story is real and accurate, the names given to the patients are not their real given names but for reference only.