- On November 13, 2018
Community education encourages HIV testing for early diagnosis and timely treatment
Mr. and Mrs. Oduro* have been married for 3 years. They live in Ashaiman, a town in the southern part of Ghana. Mrs. Oduro used to fall sick often. To treat her unknown illness, she resorted to over-the-counter drugs to suppress her symptoms.
This kind of self-medication is common in Ghana. A 2018 malaria study** revealed that only 31 percent of respondents sought treatment from health facilities for malaria symptoms, while 61 percent self-medicated and 8 percent sought traditional/herbal treatment.
Most often, self-medication and trial and error traditional treatments delay people from seeking professional medical diagnoses and securing proper treatment for serious health conditions, such as Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS.
Under SEND Ghana’s USAID-funded People for Health (P4H) project, the P4H Ashaiman district citizens monitoring committee (DCMC) was educated on HIV/AIDS as well as the effects of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV in August 2017.
The next month, the Ashaiman DCMC held its own education session for community members.
The people of Ashaiman, including Mr. Oduro, were educated on the symptoms and prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as how to avoid stigmatizing and discriminating against people living with HIV. They were also encouraged to undergo HIV tests for early diagnosis and timely treatment.
After the education session, Mr. Oduro realized the symptoms of HIV/AIDS are the same as the symptoms his wife has been experiencing for years. He approached a DCMC member who serves as a National Association of People Living With HIV Model of Hope for the Ashaiman polyclinic. This individual is an HIV-positive person who complies with antiretroviral therapy (ART) and has agreed to serve as a role model for other people living with HIV.
Mr. Oduro described the nature of his wife’s illness to the Model of Hope, and they visited Mrs. Oduro to see if she would agree to be tested for HIV. After several attempts at convincing Mrs. Oduro that HIV/AIDS should not be attributed to immorality, she agreed to take an HIV test in December 2017.
Mrs. Oduro tested positive. A trained health worker at the Ashaiman polyclinic performed necessary followup tests and she was put on treatment.
“But for my encounter with the P4H DCMC, I would have eventually died of AIDS,” Mrs. Oduro said after being put on treatment. “The community education has really been a lifesaver. I adhere to my medications and appear healthier than before.”
To date, P4H staff and DCMCs have educated more than 3,000 citizens on the importance of HIV testing and ART in an effort to reduce stigma and self-medication.
More than 100,000 listeners have also been reached through radio programming that has aired across 10 districts in the eastern and southern parts of Ghana.
As a result, hundreds of people are getting tested for HIV and more HIV-positive people are being offered treatment.
*Names have been changed.
**SOURCE: Awuah RB, et al. Malar J. 2018.