World AIDS day was celebrated in early December under the global theme of accountability. The slogan was “Stop AIDS; Keep the promise.” From Accra, Ghana reporter Joana Mantey has been talking with ordinary Ghanaians who have heard the anti-AIDS messages. She asked them whether they’ve been accountable to their loved ones by taking precautions against infection.
Ama, a trader hawking vegetables in Accra says she has heard numerous messages on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. That accounts for her firm resolve to stay away from men until she plans to get married.
She said the messages on AIDS have also helped her to be committed to her job. That way she is sure of a steady income.
Nineteen year old Evans Amoako said -- like Ama – the fear of contracting HIV/AIDS is encouraging him to stay focused on his work as an apprentice welder. He said the pleasures of life can come later when he is well settled.
“I want to prevent myself from having sex until I marry. This time you get a girl friend, she will go out with different boys. Maybe she is having AIDS and if I have sex with her, I will get some [of the virus] that is why I want to wait until I get married,” he said.
For a married man like Joseph Fleischer, keeping the promise to avoid AIDS means staying faithful to his wife.
“The programs that they are doing about HIV/AIDS have helped to protect me from women. So I am living with my wife. No girl friend,” he said.
Staying without girlfriends may however not be easy to others such as the husband of Akosua Siam. Akosua is a trader but her husband is a tractor driver. She said she remains faithful in the relationship but her husband likes to go out with other women.
She said she makes sure she repeats all the messages she hears on HIV/AIDS to him. She said she will continue to do this because her father is dead leaving only her aged mother. She said if she contracts the disease there will be no one to take care of her.”
Others are keeping the promise to stop AIDS by having their blood tested for the virus. This was evident during a stop over of a mobile laboratory, offering free HIV testing at Abeka Lapaz in Accra.
Richard was among those who had their blood tested. He said he did the test because he has a critical decision to take: choosing between two women.
“I am having more than one [woman] so after testing my blood I will be with one,” he said.
Another patron of the mobile laboratory, Edmond, had a different story.
“ HIV is not only got through sex but other means. It is good to test your blood so you know whether you have the disease or not,” he said.
The reception to messages on HIV/AIDS may be positive to a large extent but the Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, said there is need for Ghanaians to guard against complacency especially at a time when the country’s HIV prevalence rate has gone down from 3.6 in 2003 to 2.7 in 2005.
“Once the prevalence rate is going down there is the likelihood for people to think that the disease is no longer with us and then they will adopt risky behaviors which could escalate the prevalence rate,” he said.
Professor Amoa said there is need to work hard and let people know that there is no cure for AIDS and that the best form of treatment is protection against the virus.