29 Jan Fighting against HIV-AIDS Stigma
Christian Council of Ghana
|In Ghana, the fear of being known as someone with HIV or AIDS is one reason why social support systems and drug programs have failed to work in the past, but one organization’s tireless efforts against the stigma associated with the condition are now paying off.
Christian Council of Ghana’s (CCG) in collaboration with WACC and DFID (UK’s Department For International Development), are committed to eradicate the stigma, says a senior official with the organization.
“Dying alone is painful, but passing on in with respect and dignity is welcome. We want to break major barriers in access to treatment and support,” says Joyce Larko Steiner, the Programme Manager of CCG. “We need to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, and to address the stigma so that more people can freely share their stories.” Since the programme started in July 2008 they have gained overwhelming support, she adds.
Steiner said that stigma affects effective awareness and education on HIV/AIDS, discourages testing and contributes to the spread of the virus while threatening the country’s social and economic development as a whole. Many people are not able to handle society’s negative response to the condition. Some are afraid of coming out in the open for fear of losing their jobs or getting divorced from their partners.
CCG’s role is to strengthen the capacity of its members to contribute to achieving justice, unity, reconciliation and integrity among various sectors of the Ghanaian society, and to provide a forum for joint action on issues of common interest. It is in keeping with this purpose that it is trying to tackle the problems associated with HIV and AIDS.
The faith-based council runs a human rights, gender and HIV/AIDS programme in three districts: Ga West and Dangme West in greater Accra and Manya district in the eastern region of Ghana.
With a membership of 17 churches and two affiliate churches, the council’s main aim is to empower communities and fight the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
Ghana has a population of more than 22 million people. According to the United Nations AIDS Report 2008, 250,000 people were estimated to be living with the virus by the end of 2007. Some 17,000 of these are children under 15.
CCG offers counselling sessions and training programmes on battling stigma. It also provides preaching materials and trains people to be counsellors.
“Our biggest challenge is that as the community appreciates our work everyone wants to be on board, yet…we cannot help everyone,” says Steiner.
The project is currently being implemented in several phases: capacity building, identifying key stakeholders, developing relevant tools to fight stigma and sustaining the campaign against stigma.
The programme credits its success to the generous support of WACC and DFID.
“WACC has immensely contributed to the welfare of our organization. They have supported us with funding and technical advice and given us a direction of sustainability,” says Steiner. “They have also helped us cultivate working relationships with the media.”
CCG started HIV/AIDS work in 1996 and joined partnership with WACC in 2003.
Steiner says CCG is currently contributing to the National Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS of the Ghana Aids Commission, the umbrella body for regulating AIDS service organizations in Ghana, on how the problem of stigma can be tackled nationally.
“Whatever we do will feed into the larger national component,” says Steiner.
Read more about WACC’s HIV and AIDS, Communication and Stigma programme here…