Churches urged to lead fight against HIV/AIDS

Compassion International Ghana, a Christian child sponsorship organisation, on Tuesday urged the church to lead the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS by providing for those living with the virus, especially children. "We believe supporting the less fortunate in society, especially children living with the HIV is a form of evangelization, which will in the long term reduce stigmatization," the group said in a statement to mark World AIDS Day. "If the church reaches out to those living with the virus, others will feel comfortable to disclose their status, which will ultimately lead to a reduction in the infection rate," it added. The statement called on the Church not to shy away from its mandate of meeting the spiritual, physical and social needs of society. "As the World AIDS day is being marked globally today, Compassion Ghana uses this opportunity to remind the church in Ghana and indeed the global church of the role expected of them in the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS and for those ravaged by the virus," said the statement. It encouraged churches to start mobilizing their members to contribute to a fund for supporting those living with the virus. The statement said as part of its work on HIV and AIDS, Compassion International Ghana, would emphasize prevention and treatment through the promotion of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for children and their parents. It said VCT had yielded tremendous results, judging from the number of HIV positive people who were disclosing their status, saying Compassion Ghana offer some of the people financial support and ART drugs in addition to skills training and other essentials, including nutritional support, medical care and testing as well as support for income generation. Compassion also pays for the expenses that children who are on ART incur when they go for reviews. Compassion Ghana has health and social workers at all the 89 Child Development Centres of the Implementing Church Partners (ICPs), who are trained to educate and manage HIV positive cases among children and their families. The statement said though the international commitment to the pandemic has been encouraging, the need is still great, given that more than 33 million people worldwide are estimated to have HIV; and in Ghana those living with the virus were estimated to be over 400,000 according to official figures. "Compassion Ghana is worried at the rate at which adults are defiling and raping children with impunity with the chances of passing on the HIV virus to their victims. Adults could choose to engage in any form of lifestyle that exposed them to HIV and AIDS, but children should be protected from such adults who endanger the lives of children through various forms of child abuse, top among them being defilement." "As we celebrate World AIDS Day, our law makers and state institutions charged with protecting children need to reflect soberly and strengthen laws that protect children," the statement added.