First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama, has accepted to be Aids Ambassador to support the Heart-to-Heart campaign and to champion the course of HIV/AIDS patients in the country.
Mrs Mahama made the commitment when the Heart-to-Heart Ambassadors, accompanied by Mrs Angela El-Adas, Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, paid a courtesy call on her at the residence on Tuesday to offer her the role.
The First Lady, who was filled with emotions, and at the same time excited to be invited to join the campaign, was full of praise for the Ambassadors for their bravery, commitment to save life and dedication to the AIDS campaign to create awareness.
She expressed her admiration for the four AIDS Ambassadors, who are careers of the HIV virus, for overcoming the stigma associated with the disease to launch the campaign and to appear on TV programmes to create awareness. “I admire you and am so proud of you.” She declared
In furtherance of the campaign, Mrs Mahama suggested to the Ambassadors and the Ghana AIDS Commission that the campaign must be in local languages so as to reach many Ghanaians.
Mrs Mahama also said that the “Ghana AIDS Commission should make arrangements to train people who could administer the antiretroviral drug on people living with HIV” and not rely on the hospitals alone. In her view, nurses at various health facilities must also be encouraged to start educating people who visit there.
According to her, the Ghana Aids Commission should get representatives from Churches to train them so they could educate their church members.
The First Lady expressed her willingness to support children who are born HIV positive and have been abandoned by their parents and family members. Mrs Mahama, who has enormous passion for children, especially orphans, showed emotions when the Ambassadors narrated to her the plight of the abandoned children.
The Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Mrs Angela El-Adas, stated that President Mahama made a commitment to make antiretroviral drug free for people living with HIV when he launched the campaign in November 2011.
According to her, the President has directed that after 31st March 2013 no service charge of GHc5 for AIDS patients is permitted. She is therefore appealing to the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to send circulars to all the service points in the country to stop the GHc5 charge.
Mrs El-Adas further stated that the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS has stopped providing test kits for the Commission this coupled with the delay in the release of funds from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, is a challenge that the Commission is seeking to address.
The Ambassadors took turns to share their experiences with the first lady as well as the challenges they face.
Reverend 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. Their families initially rejected them but with the campaign they embarked upon, attitudes towards them have changed.
A former Fire Service Trainee, Gifty TorKornu, described how she overcame stigma at Church: “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; now the stigma is gone… I feel fulfilled doing the campaign.
Mrs Charity Owusu Danso, an AIDS Ambassador, was however thankful to the AIDS campaign which she attributed to the reduction in the stigmatisation and has however refuted the allegation that she is doing the advocacy to earn money.
“The campaign has reduced much of the stigmatisation. I am doing the campaign not for money, but to save somebody.” She stated
According to the Ambassadors, anytime Doctors go on strike, it affects their treatment schedules as HIV/AIDS patients will have to be reviewed regularly by their Doctors as well as take their medications consistently.
They expressed concern that some pastors are now demanding HIV/AIDS test before blessing marriages and others deceiving patients to do away with the antiretroviral drug and to seek deliverance from Churches.
The Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, on behalf of the Ambassadors, thanked the first lady for warmly welcoming her staff and the four Heart-to-Heart HIV/AIDS Ambassadors to her residence and also accepting to be an Ambassador for the HIV/AIDS campaign. She asked for God’s blessings for Mrs Mahama and the President.
The Ambassadors include Rev. Azumah and his wife Lydia Azumah; Mrs Charity Owusu Danso and Mrs Gifty Torkornu. The team from the Ghana AIDS Commission was led by Mrs Angela El-Adas, Director General; Mrs Margaret Yamoah, Communications Manager and Victoria Opokua Gyebi.