The Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, has expressed deep concerns about the prevailing rate of stigmatization against persons living with HIV.
The latest report by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicated that 78 percent of women and 72% of men who have heard of HIV or AIDS expressed discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV.
According to the report, respondents with discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV are those who say that they would not buy fresh vegetables from a shopkeeper or vendor if they knew that person had HIV or who say that children living with HIV should not be allowed to attend school with children who do not have HIV.
He described, as ‘startling and sad’, the emerging report on HIV by GSS, and decried the misconceptions that are fuelling the high level of discrimination.
“It’s startling and also quite sad that more than 78% of Ghanaians should discriminate against persons living with HIV, merely based on misconceptions about the disease. You may wonder whether these people who are stigmatizing persons living with HIV actually know their HIV status. Some of them may have HIV without even knowing because they have never tested their HIV status. The misconceptions are actually driving this high level of stigma and discrimination,” the Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission lamented in an interview with Umaru Sanda Amadu on Eyewitness News on Citi FM.
Dr. Atuahene clarified that one cannot be infected with HIV by eating foods that have been contaminated with the blood or bodily fluid of a person living with HIV.
He called for stakeholder collaboration to correct the misconceptions surrounding persons living with HIV, stating that the virus cannot survive outside the body.
“We all have to work together to correct these misconceptions because if somebody thinks that a person selling vegetables or fruits, and living with HIV may end up contaminating the fruits and vegetables. Therefore, they may end up getting HIV by buying from such a person. That is incorrect because there’s no way this person’s body blood or bodily fluid can get into the food. Even if it gets into the food item, it’s impossible to get HIV from merely eating contaminated food. It’s not possible,” he stated.
He also described it as ‘false’ that one can get HIV through a mosquito bite.
“People still believe that one can get infected through a mosquito bite, it’s also another misconception, it’s a false belief. No research has proven that mosquitoes can transmit HIV,” he said.