News / Africa

Ghana Ministry Helps HIV/AIDS Patients

A volunteer health worker retrieves blood sample for an HIV-AIDS detection test on a patient on 18 Jun 2008 in Noe, a city in Ivory Coast close to the Ghana border
A volunteer health worker retrieves blood sample for an HIV-AIDS detection test on a patient on 18 Jun 2008 in Noe, a city in Ivory Coast close to the Ghana border

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

While Ghana has one of Africa's lowest HIV infection rates, prejudice and poverty compound the difficulties facing those who have the virus that causes AIDS.  One Christian ministry that is helping those living with HIV/AIDS.

Monsignor Bobby Benson began the Matthew 25 Ministry in 1998 after meeting an AIDS patient in the United States.

It is based near Ghana's eastern city of Koforidua in a region with one of the country's highest HIV infection rates.  In the years since, Benson's center has helped hundreds of patients and is currently home to 70 people with HIV/AIDS.

"Word goes round, they are referred to this house by the hospitals and laboratories," said Benson.  "Once a person is infected many a times the victim does not know where to go to, so they say go to Matthew 25 House."

The man known locally as Father Bobby says the center also helps children orphaned by the disease.

"A number of children have been left behind by HIV/AIDS patients so we take care of them," added Benson.  "We have 98 children we are supporting in the house for the past 10 years.  Two are finishing university and polytechnic this year."

Benson says AIDS patients who are still living on their own receive food from the center.  Those who can no longer support themselves move in.

"We try to provide accommodation for those who cannot afford, we pay their medical bills, we pay their transport anytime they come to this house because most of them are not working," explained Monsignor Benson.

A 35-year-old mother of two who does not want her name used in this story says she tried to commit suicide when she learned that her husband died of AIDS and left her HIV positive.

After trying to poison herself, she says a nurse brought her to the Matthew 25 House.  Eight years after testing positive, she is still alive.  She says sometimes you leave home with a heavy heart, but when you get to Matthew 25 everything comes back to life in the support you get from counseling and from Father Bobby.

But she has still not disclosed her HIV status to her family because she says when people know you are HIV positive they do not want to come near you for fear that they too might become infected.  She has not even told her sister because she is afraid her sister might reject her daughter if she knew.

Benson says prejudices against people with HIV/AIDS have frustrated efforts to supplement the donations that keep the center running.  They have tried selling charcoal and sewing school uniforms.

"We also produce palm oil, but again we do not get market," said Benson.  "Once people know it is produced by Matthew 25 they would not buy our oil.  We have some in the warehouse right now.  We also do funeral undertaking so we have two hearse services which the public comes to access.  Most of our clients have learned how to produce tie-and-dye batik.  But again we are not into production on a high scale because unless we get a market, or an organization says, 'Produce so much for us,' then we do it."

Benson says despite progress in lowering the country's HIV infection rate, Ghanian society has still not learned to accept that HIV-positive people can lead normal lives.

"What baffles me is that we buy all kinds of food items from the roadside.  We do not know who is producing them. Somebody may be HIV positive, but we do not know, and we buy the food and enjoy it," noted Benson.  "But as soon as you get to know a person is HIV positive you are afraid of the person.  It is a pity the public is afraid of HIV, as if a person with HIV is the worse person under the planet.  But they are human as we are.  As for the stigma, it is still there.  You will be surprised this very house we are sitting here is highly stigmatized, but we do not have a problem.  We are still doing what we are doing."

When confronted with that stigma, Benson takes comfort in the Bible passage of Matthew 25 itself, in which the Lord says: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Additional reporting by Ruby Amable in Ghana

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid