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GHANA: Rising prevalence rate

Health authorities in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on Friday confirmed increases in the West African country's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.

Ghana's National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), which conducted the 2002 HIV/AIDS Sentinel Survey, said the prevalence rate currently stands at 3.4 percent, showing a 50 percent increase over the 2.3 percent recorded in 2000. Ghana registered a prevalence rate of 2.9 percent in its last survey for 2001.

"The figures are rising. The fact that they are going up is very worrying and we need to do a lot more than we are doing today to either reverse the trend or at least stabilise it. It is going to be difficult, but remember Uganda managed to do it," NACP manager, Dr Nii Akwei Addo, told PlusNews.

The survey, the tenth to be conducted, established 24 sentinel sites countrywide out of which 11,530 samples were collected from pregnant women attending ante-natal clinics as well as male and female patients seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

While Ghana's Northern Region recorded the lowest prevalence rate of 2 percent, the country's eastern region recorded the highest at 7.9 percent. The most populous regions in Ghana, the Ashanti Region and the Greater Accra Region, where the capital is located, recorded a prevalence of 3.9 percent and 4.1 percent respectively.

Ghanaian health authorities have already indicated their anxiety about the rising figures, stressing "our vision of a better Ghana can never be realised if the trend continues."

HIV/AIDS awareness in Ghana is high. Director-general of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Professor Sakyi Amoah, told PlusNews his institution was now shifting its focus towards encouraging behavioural changes as a means of tackling the spread of the virus.

"We are tuned towards more proactive ways of tackling this epidemic. If we do not take serious action in certain areas now, our manpower will be wrecked," he said.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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