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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Spread of STDs to increase if stigmatisation continues – human rights lawyer

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A human rights lawyer with the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Kwame Bosompem is advocating for what he describes as an explosion of human rights education in Ghana as a way to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Commending Eyes Right, a human rights programme which airs on JoyNews TV, Kwame Bosmpem said creating awareness on rights that exist for infected persons will enable them freely seek appropriate medical care and report on instances of discrimination rather than indiscriminately spreading the disease out of pain.

He was reacting to a case in which a 19-year-old was abandoned by family and friends after she contracted HIV-AIDS. Eyes Right is a human rights based show aimed at educating people on their rights and responsibilities.

To prevent stigmatization, we have named the 19 -year old HIV patient as “AMA”  

On a daily basis, Ama has a reason why she cannot take a much-needed nap. There’s work to be done on her farm. One of the things she does to put food on her table.

This has been her preoccupation after a miraculous wake-up following almost a year of being been bed ridden.

As often as they can, Ankobeahene of the Nkonya Traditional Area, Nanai Ampem-Darko and Edem Adorjor, who runs an NGO offering community-based support, pay her visits to check on her progress.

They found her in an eroded mud house after she was left to die by the maternal side of her family

Ama’s father Kweku Yirenkyi is 76 years old. He himself has been sick for a long time. He appears to have been the last man standing after his daughter was diagnosed with HIV.

The moment she was diagnosed, everybody neglected her, especially her mother and the family. She was very helpful before this disease. I have been very worried,” he said with a barely audible voice.

He wants her to become a doctor.
I really wanted her to advance with schooling. So I’m encouraging her to do so. She herself want to go back to school. I want her to become a doctor so she can take care of me when I am sick.”

Making ends meet has been a tough order for Ama and the father coupled with stigmatization.

The maternal family left her in the near collapsed mud house to die not just for fear of being infected by her virus but to avoid stigmatization of the entire family.

She said she gets terrified when it dawns on her that she is living with the virus. She dreads her status may cause her death.

Now that she is out of her sick bed and earning a living is a necessity, overcoming discrimination has become a huge challenge for her to surmount. This sometimes leaves her with extremely few options. However, in a town where there is scarcity of water, supplying the commodity to homes is a business avenue she is taking advantage of in addition to her farming activities which is more seasonal in nature.

Neighbours daring enough to interact with her pay her to supply them water. Not that she makes much; just enough to put food on the table and to keep her active.

As she works at changing a miserable situation, the scars from sores all over her body are ever present has been a constant reminder.

The organization now supplying her with anti-retroviral drugs is run by Edem Adjordor with Nana Ampem Darkoh III. Nana disagrees with claims of discrimination and stigmatization against Ama. He said their actions are as a result of ignorance and superstitions.

Everybody began to move away for his/her own life…so nobody consciously rejected her,” he narrated.

Nana partly blames the Ghana AIDS Commission for not doing enough to stop or minimize discrimination.

People who considered the virus as “demon” need education to consider it as a normal ailment.

For Edem Adjordor, he is proud that his organization’s assistance has made a significant improvement in Ama’s life. Most importantly for him, Ama has not given up on her ambitions. In the short term though, she needs support to survive.

But Ghana has a commission specifically charged to deal with HIV/AIDS and yet people died of neglect.

Where is the assistance for Ama, why did the family neglect her? Can they be held responsible for all the time she has missed out on education? These are what Eyes Right hopes to unravel.

Weighing further into the issue, lawyer Kwame Bosompem advised Ama to lodge a complaint with CHRAJ for redress in the meantime.

He said the Social Welfare Department should do more community checks to find cases as this.

“What Ghana needs is an explosion of rights education so that we would get beyond the stage where we are interested in only our rights but also rise up to defend the rights of the other person. We need a lot of education and sensitization,” he said.

“Helping us put the spotlight on these things is an immense contribution to society and we really commend EyesRight on JoyNews TV for this…it goes a long way to educate Ghanaians,” he added.

He says although Ghana has done very well in reducing HIV infections, more needs to be done especially in the areas of discrimination and stigmatization against persons living with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS,

“We cannot be complacent…We need to ensure that we do not stigmatize so people can voluntarily test and get treatment…to render the whole society safe.”

He believes the society will be unsafe as long as discrimination and stigmatization against sexually transmitted diseases persist.

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