GAC holds policy dialogue on human rights, HIV and law

AIDS CommissionGhana needs a roadmap for the proposal of an HIV/AIDS prevention and control law to consolidate gains made so far by the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) and its partners.

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 and AIDS (PLWHIV) in Ghana.

To ensure the promulgation of a national law, there is the need to constitute a Technical Working Group who would oversee the harmonisation of all issues on HIV and AIDS and ensure that they are captured into a national policy document.

This would help improve issues of public health and human rights of PLWHIV in Ghana and eliminate stigma and discrimination, which is a major challenge to efforts at reducing the rate of infection among Ghanaians, particularly the Most at Risk Populations (MARPs).

A national law would also ensure that people who need help in respect to HIV and AIDS are not denied access to health care services to distort efforts being made by the GAC to achieve zero HIV infections in Ghana.

The GAC, over the past years, had organised various forums to solicit views to develop a national policy on HIV and AIDS and had developed a draft document which was still under review to shape it into a perfect document for its passage into law.

To further improve upon the proposed HIV and AIDS bill, which is still in its draft stage, the GAC, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme and the UNAIDS, is holding a two-day National Policy Dialogue with stakeholders on Human Rights, HIV and Law in Ghana.

The purpose is to move the draft HIV and AIDS Bill to the next stage by critically reviewing its content and comparing it to existing human rights as well as other unfavourable provisions in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, with the aim of addressing the gaps in the existing law.

Ms Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, at the opening of the National Policy Dialogue on Wednesday, said  the 1992 Constitution, although made several provisions for vulnerable persons in the society, enforcement of the law had remained a challenge.

She cited various Constitutional chapters and articles which provides protection for women and children as well as the disabled.

Ms Appiah-Oppong called for greater vigilance and enforcement of the rule of law regarding human rights issues of PLWHIV and other vulnerable groups in the society.

She pledged her outfits support to the passage of the proposed draft HIV and AIDS bill which would enhance Ghana’s chances of becoming a reference point for other countries on issues of HIV and AIDS.

Dr Joseph Amuzu, Director for Policy and Planning, GAC, gave the significance of the national dialogue as a critical opportunity for the Commission to solicit for additional contributions from stakeholders to enhance the national HIV and AIDS response and to straighten the bill.

He said participants would discuss what was known about the proposed draft bill and how they could effectively improve the legal environment, particularly with regards to HIV and AIDS in Ghana.

“We need specific laws to protect PLWHIV,” citing the issue of stigma and discrimination as a major obstruction to efforts being made by the Commission to encourage patronage of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services.

He said it was critical to attract the MARP which include men who had sex with men and female sex workers and provide them with VCT services as the abuse of their right to access such services only fuelled the epidemic.

Dr Angella El-Adas, Director General, GAC, said there were various laws in the national Constitution that had out-lived their usefulness and thus were counterproductive to efforts aimed at reducing the rate of new HIV infections in the country.

She said the forum would consider all those laws and make appropriate recommendations for their removal and replacement with positive laws that conformed to international standards, while strengthening compliance to the law as well as support systems at all sectors of the economy.

Source: GNA

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