Children sensitised on HIV and AIDS
“They are also influenced by peers, the individual with whom they are involved and their own hormones or curiosity” hence the need to be open and frank with them, Mrs Mercy Acquah-Hayford, Matron in-charge of the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Clinic at Ridge Hospital in Accra observed on Monday.
The matron was addressing a two-day sensitisation workshop for 26 selected children from Muslim and Christian churches in the Accra Metropolitan Area.
The workshop was sponsored by the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERALA+) and Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa all religious NGOs on HIV and AIDS.
The children were taken through the basic facts on HIV and AIDS, child sexuality, child’s rights, behaviour change and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).
Mrs Acquah-Hayford said children attaining that age needed to be educated on the dangers of HIV and AIDS, stigmatisation, STIs and Sexual Behaviours.
She explained that the nature of the spread of the disease was such that there was the need to catch the children when they were young and ‘clean as the sheep’ to train and equip them with the requisite information and tools to be peer educators and young ambassadors for the fight against the deadly pandemic.
“Now that we have rampant cases of rape of young girls and paedophiles around, we need not waste time at all but to act now and equip them with the necessary skills to prevent them from being victims to the virus”, she stressed.
Mrs Acquah-Hayford said HIV and AIDS was a disease that could be prevented therefore, it was extremely important for parents, teachers, clergy and other adults in contact with the youth to provide honest and accurate information to them.
“One of the fastest growing populations of HIV-positive and AIDS victims are teens and young adults. Although some young people are abstaining from sexual activity, many are still sexually active and these young people need the facts about AIDS,” she added.
Dr Patricia Nkansah-Asamoah, Medical Officer of Team General Hospital and in-charge of ART Clinic, said abstinence was the only 100-per cent safe choice to avoid sexually transmitted infections whilst condoms were the best defence against the sexual transmission of HIV, “but they are not foolproof”.
She advised the children to be wary of bad friends and help spread the facts and information they had acquired to their friends as well as their parents.
Six-year-old Baaba Nkansah-Asamoah, and eight-year-old Jallel Deen Suleiman expressed their joy for the knowledge they had acquired and said what they had been taught had demystified the disease.
“Now, I have learnt that if someone has the virus and I hold his or her hands or even share the same plate, the virus cannot be transmitted to me”, Ms Nkansah-Asamoah said.
AIDS is the life-threatening disease caused by HIV. The virus depresses the body’s immune system, making it difficult for the body to resist bacteria and viruses that might cause disease. The infected person is at high risk for diseases such as lung infection, pneumonia and cancer. Once developed, the full-blown syndrome results in death.