The Hidden Consequences of Globalization - Part 3
Institutional Advancement Manager - 10/21/2016
Author: George Mwinnyaa.
Notwithstanding the advances and efforts of governments and international organizations, HIV, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “continues to be a major public health issue.” Globally, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2014, with about 2 million new infections per year (WHO). The distribution of HIV/AIDS is not even between countries. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region in the world, with about 25.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Sab-Saharan Africa accounts for 70% of the estimated 2 million new HIV infections (WHO). Joseph R. Oppong citing the work of Gould, states that “many doctors (physicians) with experience across the continent (Africa) estimate that the actual HIV/AIDS is 80%-90% underreported.”
Ghana is a country in West Africa which has suffered and continues to suffer from a high rate of HIV/AIDS. The actual prevalence, incidence, and impact of HIV/AIDS in Ghana are difficult to measure. The two main data sources for HIV/AIDS in Ghana is the Country AIDS Response Progress Report by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) program sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These data sources, even with their flaws and biases, remain the best source for the estimates of HIV/AIDS in Ghana.
The last population census in Ghana was done in 2010 and recorded a population of 24.7 million (GDHS). The 2014 GDHS shows that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among adults age 15-49 is 2%. The prevalence is higher in urban areas, 2.4%, than in rural areas, 1.7% (GDHS). The prevalence among females and males age 15-49 is 2.8% and 1.1% respectively (GDHS). This implies that young women are more likely to contract the disease than young men. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Western Region, where the events of the narrative are located, among women and men ages 15-49 is 3.3% and 2.1% respectively (GDHS). The prevalence among men and women ages 15 to 24 in the Western Region is 1.5%, the second highest in the country (GDHS).
Unfortunately, about 38% of women and 49% of men ages 15-49 who have HIV have never been tested until the GDH survey in 2014. Still, it is an improvement from 2003 where 84% and 92% of men and women age 15-49 respectively, who had HIV, never got tested (GDHS). In 2013, only 69% of people living with HIV/AIDS were receiving anti-retroviral drugs against a national target of 80%. The Ghana AIDS Commission cited a shortage of money, HIV test kits, and anti-retroviral drugs as a major set back in the fight against HIV (GAC). This shows the burden of HIV/AIDS in the development of the country. The current data on HIV/AIDS suggests that the spread of HIV/AIDS is decreasing. However, the measurement of HIV/AIDS prevalence and incidence has been problematic in Ghana due to biased, and unreliable research methods.
About 38% of women and 49% of men ages 15-49 who have HIV have never been tested until the GDH survey in 2014. Still, it is an improvement from 2003 where 84%
The HIV/AIDS prevalence in Ghana, especially in the Western Region where the events of the narrative took place, is affected by many local factors from the community and the government. On the community level, there is strong stigmatization against people who are known to have HIV/AIDS. The 2014 Ghana Health and Demographic Survey show that among Ghanaians ages 15-49, only 8% and 14% of women and men respectively expressed accepting attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH).
Stigmatization, according to the GAC report for 2014, is much stronger against people living with HIV. One community member stated, “When family members got to know about my sister’s HIV status…they don’t eat together with her anymore and no one in the family wants to come close to her” (Anafi, Mprah, and Asiamah) Another reported, “I remember there was a rumor about one woman who used to live in this town and sell bread that she has HIV infection…and everybody stopped buying from her because who wants to buy food from AIDS patient” (Anafi, Mprah, and Asiamah).
At the national level, the government also shares part of the blame. The present constitution of Ghana prohibits and criminalizes commercial sex work, men having sex with men, homosexuality, and lesbianism (GAC). This leads to institutional stigmatization and discrimination against people in these groups, making it difficult for them to seek health care and services, which could help reduce the spread of the disease within the country. In addition, the Ghana constitution does not have any legislature or policy to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS (GAC). Therefore, when PLWH are discriminated against by institutions like hospitals and employers, they cannot seek any legal protection.
The Ghanaian government, in partnership with other international organizations such as WHO, USAID and UNAID, have, in the past, helped increase availability of HIV/AIDS services such as the distribution of condoms, providing training for medical staff, supplying HIV/AIDS testing tools, and organizing community outreach programs (GAC). Notwithstanding the success, there are still many lapses in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Ghana that need attention. The idea that very few people have positive attitudes towards PLWH shows that more work needs to be done at the community level to prevent stigmatization and discrimination.
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- Ghana AIDS Commission. “Country AIDS Response Progress Report – Ghana.” (2015). UNAIDS.org. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
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- The DHS Program. “Demographic and Health Survey, Ghana 2014.” (2014). Dhsprogram.com. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
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An overview of current research trends and development.