Lordina Mahama, First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, has said HIV and AIDS remains one of the major public health challenges in spite of the successes achieved in halting its spread.
Today, an estimated number of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand (250,000) Ghanaians, are living with the virus, and its attendant socio-economic implications, she said.
The First Lady said this at a media launch themed, “Love Under the Sun China – Africa Summer Camp for Children Orphaned by AIDS” in Accra.
She said in Africa, throughout the last decade, significant achievements have been made, in the response against HIV and AIDS, “and yet, the disease continues to have adverse impact on the lives of children, and families worldwide” adding that Sub-Saharan Africa was the most affected.
She said it was against this background that “I am delighted, as the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, and President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), to be part of this event, jointly organized by Ghana and China: The “Love under the Sun: China-Africa Children Orphaned by AIDS Summer Camp”.
The First Lady explained that the media launch presented a unique opportunity for the media to be informed about the programme.
“It would also show the efforts made so far, in not only the response to HIV and AIDS, but equally important, the provision of shelter and care for orphaned, and vulnerable children, as well as the scaling up of activities, and programmes, such as this one for our children,” she said.
First Lady Mahama commended the First Lady of China, Her Excellency Prof. Peng Liyan, and the Chinese government, for being supportive “in our quest to provide the best of care, and guidance for the children affected by HIV and AIDS”.
“We cannot deny the fact that our national response, to HIV and AIDS, could not have attained the gains it has made so far, without the partnership of our local and international stakeholders,” she said, adding, “I thank all of you very much for your support.”
She said the ‘‘Love under the Sun – China-Africa Children Orphaned by AIDS Summer Camp’’, which started in 2003 in Hong Kong, offered an avenue to dispel myths about the disease, reduce stigma and discrimination, especially self-stigma, and significantly raise advocacy for children orphaned by the disease.
“Working through my leadership, of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), with the support of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, I am impressed at the progress we have realized in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Dr Mahama.
She recalled some of the achievements such as heightened Prevention-of-Mother-To-Child-Transmission advocacy, integrated outreaches, to many communities, offering HIV Testing Services, maternal health and attitudinal change education, in addition to health screening, for other illnesses.
“Additionally, we have promoted Advocacy on Adolescents and HIV, focused particularly on empowering the adolescent girl,” the First Lady added.
She said “we have also established strong partnerships that would enable us to provide assistance, to health facilities, especially in deprived areas, in the form of medical supplies, equipment and consumables, mammograms, x-ray machines, among others.”
First Lady Mahama recalled that in February this year, she, together with other African First Ladies, launched the Campaign to End Child Marriages, as well as the Adolescent “All-in Campaign” in Ghana.
“Just as I have dedicated myself to the fight against HIV/AIDs, I also pledge my continued commitment to the fight against child marriage, not only in Ghana, but on the entire continent of Africa,” the First Lady said.
She said being the First Lady, as well as being a mother; it was her prayer that the summer camp would inspire greater paediatric care, protection of orphaned children and the promotion of the rights of People Living with HIV, particularly children living with the disease.
The right of children affected by HIV and AIDS to education, health, and the freedom to live their dreams, are dear to my heart.
She urged all stake-holders to support the example by the Chinese Government saying, “I will encourage us all to play our part, in our quest to provide comprehensive, and modern care, and support for People Living with HIV, in particular, children living with the virus.”
Madam Sub Baohong, the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, who hosted the event, said AIDS orphans had equal rights to education as other children.
She said there was still a long way to go to achieve AIDS prevention and control, adding that governments over the world needed to work together to fight the pandemic.
She recalled that last year, during the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People’s Republic of China, and the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS, led by First Lady Lordina Mahama, launched the joint statement of Africa-China High Level Advocacy on HIV.
She said they also re-affirmed the need for Africa and China to join forces to achieve an AIDS free generation.
Madam Sun said the Chinese government would actively support African countries in their fight against HIV/AIDS.
Ten Ghanaian children, two teachers and one official would attend the “Love Under the Sun-China/Africa Summer Camp for Children Orphaned by AIDS in China.