Ghana’s First Lady named HIV/AIDS Ambassador
The Heart-to-Heart Ambassadors through the Ghana AIDS Commission, as part of a campaign to support the fight against HIV and AIDS, conferred on Mrs Mahama the title, at her residence in Accra on Wednesday.
The Ambassadors are the Reverend John Kwashie Azumah, Minister of the Gospel at Mount Zion Evangelical Ministries, and his wife, Lydia Azumah; Mrs Charity Owusu Danso and Mrs Gifty Torkornu.
They were accompanied by officials of the Ghana AIDS Commission, led by Mrs Angela El-Adas, Director General; Mrs Margaret Yamoah, Communications Manager, and Victoria Opokua Gyebi.
The First Lady said she was excited that she has been invited to join the campaign, and praised the Ambassadors for their bravery and commitment to saving lives through HIV/AIDS awareness strategies.
Mrs Mahama expressed her admiration for the four AIDS Ambassadors, who are careers of the HIV virus, for overcoming the stigma associated with the disease and launched the campaign, and to appear on TV programmes to create awareness.
The First Lady suggested to the Ambassadors and the Ghana AIDS Commission to project the campaign through local languages so as to reach many people.
Mrs Mahama also said: “Ghana AIDS Commission should make arrangements to train people who could administer the antiretroviral drug on people living with HIV and not to rely on the hospitals alone”.
She called on nurses at various health facilities to educate people living the disease, and suggested to the Ghana Aids Commission to train selected members of Churches so that they could sensitise others on HIV and AIDS.
The First Lady promised to support babies born with HIV and have been abandoned by their parents and families.
The Director General of GAC, Mrs Angela El-Adas, recounted that President John Dramani Mahama was commitment to making antiretroviral drug free for people living with HIV when he launched the campaign in November 2011.
She appealed to the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to ask health centres to stop charging GHc5.00 on the drug.
Mrs El-Adas said that the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS has stopped providing test kits for the Commission.
She explained that this, coupled with the delay in the release of funds from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, is a challenge that the Commission was seeking to address.
The Ambassadors took turns to share their experiences with the First Lady as well as the challenges they face.
Rev. Azuma and his wife Mrs Lydia Azuma, recounted how they dealt with threats from the community, especially family members, when they first declared that they were HIV positive.
They said their families initially rejected them, but with the campaign they embark upon, their attitudes towards them have changed.
A former Fire Service Trainee, Gifty Torkornu, described how she overcame stigma at Church saying: “It was not easy going to Church. Everybody was staring at me and that was the first stigma I had.
“The priest allowed me to talk to the congregation and since that day my life at the Church has changed and now the stigma is gone… I feel fulfilled doing the campaign”.
Mrs Charity Owusu Danso, an AIDS Ambassador said: “The campaign has reduced much of the stigmatisation. I am doing the campaign not for money, but to save somebody.” She said.
According to the Ambassadors, anytime doctors go on strike, it affects the handling of people living with HIV/AIDS.
They expressed concern that some pastors were demanding HIV/AIDS test before blessing marriages and others were asking people living with HIV and AIDS to stop using the antiretroviral drug and to seek deliverance from Churches.