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Ghana : Mixed Messages on HIV Prevention by AIDS Commission (GAC)

in GHANA,

The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) is sending mixed messages about HIV prevention.

With the increased visibility of LGBTI persons in Ghana, the commission is calling for HIV prevention and treatment interventions around MSM (men who have sex with men) while also encouraging religious leaders, traditional authorities, educationists, parents, NGOs to "reduce the number of young people who are lured into MSM."

In a statement issued in Accra by Dr Angela El-Adas, Director-General of the GAC in reaction to reports of gay activities, it said the MSM (Men having Sex with Men) situation in Ghana was an issue that we could not run away from.

“The work of the reported NGO that registered up to 8,000 MSM, if true, may just be a microcosm of the real situation on the ground. Activities of MSM may predispose some of them and their other heterosexual partners to HIV. It is important therefore to have the requisite data for planning HIV prevention and treatment interventions.”...

“It is important that all hands are on deck to reduce the number of young people who are lured into MSM,” the Commission said and called on all religious leaders, traditional authorities, educationists, parents, NGOs working with young people, to get involved in educating young males on the dangers of being involved in sex with other men.

It said the Commission was extending services on protection and the use of health products such as lubricants and condoms to identified MSM groups through civil society organisations.

Responses to Mixed Messages by The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC)

Since The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) sent out its "all hands on deck" message, religious and government leaders have responded by further stigmatising LGBTI persons.

Religious Responses

Christian

A Catholic priest is calling on government to ignore human rights groups and launch a full war to curb the rising trend of homosexuals and lesbians in the country.

Rector of the St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica in Kumasi, Reverend Monsignor Raphael Owusu Peprah, says the phenomenon is a threat to our family systems and nationhood.

He said nothing should be left to ensure practitioners of same-sex marriage do not find a safe haven in Ghana.

Rev. Owusu Peprah questioned the motivation of human rights advocates who defend the actions of homosexuals.

Muslim

A group of Muslim leaders in Ghana’s Western region is anxious about what they term the “rising frequency of homosexuals in the region” and are warning that this could lead to a decline in the population. The Muslim leaders said they had petitioned the government on the same matter last year hoping to influence the authorities to ensure that the condition is brought in control.

One of the leaders of the group Sheikh Abdul Aziz told Ghana’s Joy FM radio on Wednesday that the actions of homosexuals were destroying the community. He warned of a crisis if the gays continued “challenging the way Allah created man.”

Sheikh Abdul Aziz said he was disappointed that the government failed to respond last year when his group first raised the issue. He said, “it is very critical issue that must not be evaded.”

Government Response

The National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) in the Volta Region, a commission established by the Constitution of Ghana, plans to use its civic education clubs to fight homosexuality in Senior High Schools (SHSs).

Ghana News Agency reports:

Mr Harrison Kofi Belley, Volta Regoional Director of the NCCE, told the GNA in Ho that reports indicated that SHSs were being used as nurseries by homosexuals.

“We are empowering our clubs in the schools to do the battle and we are confident it will be successful,” he said.

Mr Belley said members of the clubs would be given special skills and training to enable them to campaign against the practice and influence their peers to refrain from it.

He said the NCCE regards homosexuality as an objectionable alien culture which does not conform to Ghana’s moral standards.

“This is a bad practice and we will not allow it to gain a foothold,” Mr Belley said.

Stigma Drives the Epidemic

Festus Mugae and Kenneth Kaunda, former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia, are on their HIV Free Generation tour in some African countries. At a news conference in Lilongwe, Malawi at the end of last month Mugae said, "As long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accomodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won." Kaunda added, "We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalizing same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, for the sake of HIV and AIDS."

In the Joint Statement by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons on HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill presented to the last session of Uganda's Parliament, the coalition wrote:

It therefore appears straightforward that the way to control the spread of HIV is to promote safe sex practices and not to moralize the epidemic. It should be remembered that Uganda’s early success in the fight against HIV/AIDS was achieved by an open, honest and pragmatic approach that promote truth and mature discourse over hypocrisy and denial. As such Uganda was able to drastically reduce HIV prevalence at a time that in the majority of the world was seeing an increase. Evidently, when it comes to fighting HIV, acceptance and openness is to be preferred over denial and hypocrisy.
 

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