By Edmund Mingle
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Professor F. T. Sai, chairman of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), has called for a national debate on whether or not prostitution should be legalised in the country.
He said the issue of whether prostitution should be legalised or decriminalised as part of the measures to fight HIV spread, was one that should be discussed for a consensus to be reached on which way the country should go.
He, therefore, encouraged professional bodies, particularly the Ghana Journalists Association, to facilitate such a debate with experts.
Speaking at the media launch in Accra yesterday, of the 2nd National HIV/AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) which is aimed at enhancing the fight against the spread of HIV in the country through the use of research, Prof. Sai said it was important that an effective framework be developed to deal with the issue of prostitution which facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The conference, slated for Accra from March 3 to 5, aims to bring together over 400 researchers, scientists, policy makers and implementers to share ideas and discuss ways of improving research in the fight against the menace.
It is on the theme: "Sustaining a comprehensive national response to HIV."
Prof. Sai urged the media to support the campaign against the disease saying, "The fight cannot be won without the full support of the media."
He called for the debate after Prof. Matilda Pappoe from the School of Public Health and a consultant with the GAC, in an answer to a question on whether prostitution should be legalised so that it could be controlled, suggested that prostitution should be decriminalised.
She explained that without necessarily legalising the profession, it could be decriminalised for the practitioners who are currently practising under cover to come out to be provided with the necessary protection against infection.
"We should allow people to work with these prostitutes for them to do the proper thing by protecting themselves and their clients," she stated.
There have been divided opinions on the issue of prostitution which is a contributor to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
While one school of thought believes there is the need to legalise it for it to be properly regulated and for the practitioners to be provided the necessary health care and protection, another school of thought, from the religious point of view, believes prostitution is evil and should not be approved of.
Dr. Sylvia J. An-nie-Akwetey, Director of Policy Planning, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of GAC, giving a briefing on the conference, said the thematic areas for discussions include HIV prevention among women and vulnerable groups, treatment, care and support interventions and legal issues on HIV/AIDS.
The Commission, she said has approved 56 abstracts on various topics to be presented by experts from Ghana and around the globe at the conference which would also feature exhibitions on HIV research activities.
The conference, which she said is in line with the national strategic framework on HIV/AIDS seeks to encourage co-ordinated research towards managing and preventing the spread of the disease.
Sharing lessons from the first conference in 2004, she said it was found out that there was the need for Ghanaian researchers to meet often.
As a result of that revelation, she said a network of researchers was established for more collaboration among themselves, while an HIV/AIDS database was set up to know what every researcher was working on.
Prof. Sakyi Awuku-Amoa, Director General of GAC, answering a question about the outcome of the free condom distribution during the Ghana 2008 tournament said over four million pieces of condoms were distributed to hotels, the stadia and in public and private institutions. He described the exercise as successful.
As to whether or not the condoms were actually used by the beneficiaries, he said the Commission cannot tell, but added that he believes "the objective was achieved considering the way people were cla-mouring for the condoms."