Mahama pledges to focus on HIV/AIDS reduction

President John Dramani Mahama on Wednesday gave the assurance that African leaders would in the coming years focus on the total reduction of the incidence of HIV and AIDS on the continent.

He said the continent was already battling h illiteracy and poverty and would therefore not allow the prevalence of the HIV and AIDS to gain centre-stage in their political progress.

President Mahama gave the assurance when he launched the seventh African Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Accra.

The Conference, which is part of a long-term process of building and fostering regional dialogue on sexual and reproductive health and rights, would end on Friday, February 12.

It is being hosted by Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama, First Lady of Ghana and President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in collaboration with Curious Minds, Ghana, an organisation of young advocates and youth in broadcasting.

Participating First Ladies are from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Other First Ladies expected at the Conference are from Sudan, Madagascar and Mozambique.

The Conference it is on the theme ‘Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’.

President Mahama said although the HIV and AIDS had reduced for some years now, there was the need for governments to focus on mother-to-child education to encourage mothers to go in for voluntary tests that would eliminate the transmission.

He added:”Testing positive to the HIV and AIDS is no longer a death sentence and I encourage all of you to do that to reduce the incidence of the disease.”

The President said with the introduction of Anti-Retroviral Drugs people could live much longer and therefore needed to know their status to enable the health workers to support them to enjoy better lives.

On early marriages amongst girls, President Mahama said African governments would continue to support the First Ladies to support girls to stay in school to achieve their academic laurels.

That, he said, formed the basis for constructing more Community Day Senior High Schools in deprived communities throughout the country.

He said four out of the 123 of such schools under construction in the country had been commissioned and in the coming days more would be completed to admit more students.

President Mahama said the completion of those schools would give an extra opportunity to over 240,000 students throughout the country to pursue other courses and skills training programmes.

Mrs Lordina Mahama said the future of every country depended on the activeness of its youth, and her outfit would continue to support all youth programmes to achieve their targets in the socio-economic development of the country.

Mrs Mahama who would also launch a major campaign towards ending child marriages in Ghana, a programme she is spearheading through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection promised positive support to the youth.

On the Ghana Ending Child Marriage Initiative aimed at raising awareness and garnering support towards ending child marriages in Ghana, the First Lady said more information on Sexual and Reproductive Health would be developed to help educate them against negative practices that could retard their orderly progress.

Other dignitaries in the Accra Conference are the UN Under Secretary & Executive Director of UNFPA, the Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Africa Union Commissioner for Social Affairs and UNICEF’s Deputy Director for West and Central Africa.

Also in attendance would be the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, the President of the International Women’s Health Coalition and over 15 Ministers from the Health, Justice, Gender and Youth Ministries across Africa.

Source: GNA