Ghana's Youth Must Change Attitudes on Unsafe Sex

17/06/2011 - The major factor behind the AIDS pandemic in Ghana is unsafe sex. One civil society leader has called on youth to change their attitudes toward sexual activity as one preventative measure.

Since the discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the disease has infected at least 60 million people. Half of those infected have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses.

Despite recent gains in prevention, treatment and long-term care, 7,000 people continue to be infected with HIV every day. Of these, 1,000 are children.

The chief of Occupational Health and Safety at the Trades Union Congress in Ghana, West Africa,  Mr. Nana Owusu Boatey, has noted that 85% of people living with HIV are infected via unsafe sex.

While education efforts among trade unions are widespread, he noted, compliance with preventative measures is not doing well.

Mr. Boatey urged young people to change their attitudes toward sexual activity. The adult HIV prevalence rate in Ghana is 1.8%. This figure includes children aged fifteen years old and over. There are an additional 27,000 children aged 14 or under who are also HIV-positive, according to statistics published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Less than a third of young people have comprehensive knowledge about HIV and fewer than half used condoms at the last occurrence of high-risk sex. Of the country’s 1.1 million orphans of all causes, 160,000 are AIDS orphans.

Last week, international leaders and global health donors came together at the United Nations (UN) to help gain momentum in the fight against AIDS. The meeting concluded with delegates adopting several new targets to be achieved by 2015. Some of these targets include providing anti-retroviral drugs to 15 million people, halving the number of infections related to sexual contact and injection drug use, halving the number of tuberculosis cases among people infected by HIV, eliminating mother-to-child-transmission of the virus, and improving protection efforts among vulnerable populations (men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and sex workers).

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, commented on the decisions made, the ambitious and worthy targets declared. Mr. Ban’s goal for 2020 is “zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

“Toward this end, “he said, “UN member states also pledged to increase AIDS-related spending in low- and middle-income countries to between $22 billion and $24 billion by 2015.”