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GAC trains 50 media practitioners on HIV-related stigma, discrimination

The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has held refresher training for fifty media practitioners on HIV-related human rights, stigma, and discrimination.

The two-day training held at Peduase in the Eastern Region formed part of activities in commemoration of Zero Discrimination Day, observed annually on March 1st.

The training was organised with funding support from USAID, PEPFAR through SEND Ghana.

Dr Kyeremeh Atuahene, Director General of the GAC, in a speech read on his behalf at the opening said the refresher training sought to ultimately make Ghanaians understand that zero discrimination was about the fact that HIV infection does not make a person less of a human being.

He, thus, emphasized the need for journalists to educate the public to promote equality and fairness for persons living with HIV (PLHIV).

Dr. Atuahene highlighting the pervasive nature of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in Ghana, referenced statistics from the Ghana Statist
ical Service indicating that a significant percentage of the population still holds unacceptable attitudes towards PLHIV.

The Director-General indicated that reports from various studies and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) have shown that individuals affected by HIV continue to face discrimination in various aspects of their lives, including housing, employment, education, and access to health services.

Dr. Atuahene said it was important to remove discriminatory laws and enact empowering legislation, such as the Ghana AIDS Commission Act (Act 938), which guarantees fundamental human rights and freedom for people infected, affected, or at higher risk of HIV.

‘Under the provisions of Act 938, individuals living with HIV have the right to health, privacy, education, work, and freedom from discrimination based on their HIV status. Any form of discrimination against people living with HIV is punishable by law,’ he said.

He said stigma and discrimination not only undermine the
life-saving treatment services provided but also contribute to the premature deaths of PLHIV.

He emphasised that most often it was stigma, not the disease itself, that poses the greatest threat to the well-being of persons living with HIV.

Dr Atuahene while calling for collective action to eliminate discrimination, urged the media, religious institutions, traditional leaders, politicians, educators, employers, and all Ghanaians to join forces in creating a society free from discrimination in all forms.

Dr Zohra Balsara, USAID Ghana Health Office Director, was optimistic that the training would enable accurate reportage and improve understanding of HIV and AIDS among the public.

‘Accurate reporting will prevent misinformation and support community education to reduce stigma and improve patients’ confidence to access HIV services,’ she said.

Dr Fred Nana Poku, the Director of Technical Services, GAC in his presentation took journalists through the HIV basics, the mode of transmission, symptoms, its importa
nce, testing, treatment principles, reducing one’s risk of HIV and where to get more information.

Other topics covered include HIV related stigma and discrimination, how to use the Oraquick HIV Self-test kit, HIV and AIDS terminology guidelines, Epidemiology of the HIV and AIDS response, among others.

Dr Poku urged journalists to use the knowledge acquired on their platforms to educate the public on HIV to eliminate stigma and discrimination for the protection of all.

Ms Rebecca Ekpe, the Public Relations Officer representing the President of GJA expressed appreciation for the continuous partnership with the GAC to enhance capacity of journalists in this national exercise to end stigma and discrimination.

She pledged the GJA’s commitment to the training of journalists and urged them to take these training sessions seriously and share the knowledge as they go along.

Ms Ekpe advised the media to emphasise more on the effects of HIV and AIDS, stigma and discrimination on women, its impact on the community b
ecause they form the majority of the population and globally.

Mr Dominic Hlordzi, the General Secretary, Ghana Journalists Association, educating journalists on how to report HIV issues urged them to be factual when writing or reporting and not to be too sensational as that could lead to stigma.

Source: Ghana News Agency