Stop AIDS, love LifeHIV/AIDS is extremely serious in Ghana. The epidemic is so serious that it will have a profound impact on the social and economic development of the country well into the future. More than 90% of AIDS cause among persons between ages 15 and 40.

Two – thirds of reported AIDS causes so far have been females. 210 people are estimated to be infected daily in Ghana [1999]. By 1998, 380,000 were officially reported to have been infected. If 210 are infected each day since then, current figures could be staggering. AIDS deaths of 48, 500 per year by 1999, will increase to 118,900 per year by 2009, and 131 per year by 2014.

Many more people are infected with HIV but have not yet developed AIDS. Actual AIDS causes are only the tip of the iceberg. Many more people are infected with HIV but have not yet developed AIDS. However, almost all will develop AIDS and die within the next 15 years or so. There is no available cure for AIDS.

By 1999, the cumulative number of AIDS death from beginning of the epidemic is estimated at about 114, 000. Over the ensuing 15 years [1999 – 2014], an additional one million persons in Ghana are likely to die from the disease.

AIDS deaths increase the number of orphans. AIDS death orphans in 1999 were 126,000 in year 2014.
There will be tremendous strain on social systems to cope with a large number of orphans and provide them with needed care and supervision.
The epidemic will increase the death rate of almost all ages. The impact will be especially severe among adults in the prime working ages.

The incubation period of about eight years between the time a person becomes HIV – infected to the development of the disease. AIDS is part of the problem in recognizing the special character of HIV/AIDS.

Most persons in Ghana who are infected with HIV don’t even know it. They, therefore, are likely to infect others with knowing. No one dies from AIDS directly. Rather, infected persons succumb to the opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, that invade the body with the breakdown of the immune system. Consequently, many AIDS deaths are never identified as such.

The peak ages for AIDS cases in Ghana are 25 – 34 for females, 30 – 39 males. Children between the ages of 5 – 14 may be a special window of hope. They must be taught to protect themselves from HIV infection.
The treatment of opportunistic infections resulting from AIDS is expensive; over 400,000. Assuming 80   of AIDS patients receive health care, the cost will rise from 3.8 billion [in 1994] to 26.7 billion [by 2009] or 37.4 billion [by 2014], not counting inflation.
If funding is diverted from other health needs into AIDS pandemic, then mortality and sickness not related to HIV is likely to increase as well, adding the overall impact of the epidemic.

Abstinence Yields Results
In a study conducted in June/July 2001 – the Reproductive Health Survey – to track the STOP AIDS LOVE LIFE campaign, when respondents were asked ways to avoid AIDS, abstinence as a way of preventing HIV\ AIDS increased from 8% in 1998 to 67% in 2001 for men   and   from 5% in 1998 to 48% for women. Percentage of respondents practicing abstinence to prevent AIDS saw an increase from 15% in 1998 to 20% in 2001 for men and 13% in 1998 to 14% in 2001 for women.
Source: Ghana Social Marketing Foundation: HIV/AIDS  Programme.

Disturbing Figures
60 million people have been infected with the HIV/AIDS virus worldwide.
22 million people have already died.
40 million people are living with a virus that will eventually kill them.
13 million children have already lost one or both parents to AIDS.
600,000 infants are infected yearly worldwide.
Current statistics indicate that one in twenty Ghanaians is HIV positive!
The most significant issue is that HIV/AIDS affects persons in their prime (i.e. 15 – 49 years).
Even more disturbing is that these disturbing figures continue to grow!

Our Stand on Condoms
Regular readers of our magazine know that for many years now we’ve counseled young people to stay away from sexual immorality – not only in order to prevent STDs  or HIV, but even more important, to dedicate your body to the Lord. And our stand has not changed. We believe that sex belongs solely in marriage, not outside it, and the Lord rewards those who obey him in this and other biblical injunctions. One of the blessings of sexual purity is escape from STDs and HIV/AIDS.
Therefore the education on HIV prevention, which mentions the use of condom by unmarried people as a preventive measure, does not negate our stand.

As the information clearly states, condoms should never be considered a guarantee of protection. Not only that, but also the availability of condom must never be regarded as a license to indulge in sex outside marriage, enjoy their physical relationship and not put another life at risk. By preventing the transmission of HIV to the uninfected spouse or by preventing continuous re-infection if both spouses are HIV positive, the couple is protecting and preserving each other’s life.

Condoms Use Outside Of Marriage
If an individual chooses to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, he or she should assume responsibility to protect life and prevent HIV transmission by using condoms.
It only takes one act of sexual activity to acquire or transmit HIV or STDs. To ensure effective protection, condoms must be used consistently and correctly. It is important to check the expiration date on the condom package.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Prompt and through medical treatment of an STD, such Chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, and syphilis, is important in reducing the risk of HIV transmission. An individual should visit a medical clinic or health professional immediately after recognizing symptoms associated with STDs.

For non – HIV – infected individuals, eliminating the STD will decrease the concentration of HIV in the body fluids.
This will slow the onset of fully developed AIDS. A lower concentration of HIV in the bodily fluids also will decrease the risk of transmission.

Immediate treatment for STDs will not only protect an individual from HIV transmission, but also will help to protect an individual from possible infertility and advanced infections related to the existing STD.

Other Safe Sex Precautions
Avoid any sexual contact which results in bleeding or when bleeding is present. This includes during a woman’s menstrual cycle or the recovery period after labor   and delivery of baby.
Avoid having sex with individuals who currently have or have had unprotected sex with other partners.  

Research shows approximately 10 to 20% of babies breastfed by an HIV positive mother will become infected with HIV: However, research also shows that the probability of children acquiring life threatening disease is at an even higher percentage when they are exposed to unsanitary water mixed with infant milk formula.

Mothers who are HIV positive should make the decision to breastfeed or use formula based upon their particular circumstances and recourses
To eliminate the risk of transmission mothers with HIV should use infant milk formula to feed their baby if a quality formula product and sanitary water are available. However if sanitary water is not available or the quality of the infant milk formula is uncertain then breastfeeding is preferable
For mothers who lack access to sanitary water they should consider breastfeeding only if they have enough time and fuel to boil the water for every feeding

Blood Transfusion
Most countries now test donated blood for HIV; thus the risk of acquiring HIV during a blood transfusion is low if proper testing of the blood supply has occurred. Despite this good news, it is still important to ensure that the blood used for transfusions has been tested and is negative for HIV.
Needles, Syringes Other Medical Instruments
Do not use needles, syringes, or any instrument that has been used to pierce another individual’s skin.
If an instrument that has been used to pierce another individual’s skin must be used again, thoroughly sterilize it by placing it in boiling water for 20 minutes.
In high – risk countries, identify medical facilities with safe injection practices.
When traveling, carry disposable gloves and sterile, disposable needles / syringes for necessary injections.

First Aid Safety Precautions
 Because an injured person may not know their HIV status, may not be thinking clearly, or may not be able to communicate, anyone administering first aid should always take preventative measures.

If there is a risk of exposure to the injured person’s bodily fluids, follow these precautions:
   • Wear disposable gloves and discard after use ( in a sealed receptacle or bag)
   • Cover any sores, cuts, or scratches on the body before touching the injured person
   • Immediately wash any area of the body that comes in contact with the injured person’s bodily fluids
   • Cleanse exposed surfaces, such as tables, floors, and toilets with diluted bleach
   • Soak medical instruments in boiling water for 20 minutes after use

Pregnancy And Labour
The best prevention method against MTCT in pregnancy and labor is the use of antiviral medications, such as Azidodoexythymidine (AZT)  or Nevirapine. Treatment usually involves a two-pronged approach;
   • Treating the mother with antiviral medications during pregnancy.
   • Treating the baby with antiviral medications for a period after birth.