The Minister of Education, on Tuesday said the health of teachers should be treated with urgency since the impact of HIV and AIDS on them would increase levels of the disease related absenteeism and mortality.
Mr Lee Ocran explained that HIV and AIDS remained serious threat to sustainable global development including achieving education for all and halting the spread of the virus as a prerequisite for achieving Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3.
The Education Minister said this in a speech read on his behalf at the opening of a three-day meeting on Support Movement of Teachers infected and affected by HIV in West and Central Africa.
Participants from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cameroun and Gambia will be sharing experiences and concerns, enhance regional exchange and strengthen the links between ministries of education, teachers, unions and networks of HIV positive teachers.
It is being organised by UNESCO, World Bank, International Labour Organisation, UNAIDS, Educational International, Ghana AIDS Commission and Partnership for Child Development in collaboration with Ghana’s Ministry of Education.
Education Minister Ocran said despite the intervention put in place by the sector to protect learners and workforce against stigmatisation and discrimination and ensuring that the right to confidentiality about their HIV status, the virus still posed as a threat to the educational system.
He called for a collective commitment to contribute to the prevention of HIV infection, stigma and discrimination in the sub-region.
Mr Tirso Dos Santos, Officer in Charge of UNESCO said due to the unique custodian role played by teachers in society, HIV positive teachers often experience high levels of stigma and discrimination within schools and outside of school settings.
He hinted that a study was being conducted on existing practices and development needs to support teachers and educational workers networks positively in the West and Central region.
Ms Golda G. Asante, Technical Co-ordinator at the Ghana AIDS Commission noted that teachers served as a models, mentors and guardians and there was the need for them to ensure that they were protected and supported to know their status and also engage in the fight against the pandemic.
She called for the development and adoption of HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy Framework for the educational sector in West and Central Africa.
“This will address the issues of stigma and discrimination against teachers living with HIV and ensure that they have early access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support”.