“My name is Elisabeth, I am a person living with HIV. I discovered that I had the virus when I was pregnant with my first child. Thanks to anti-retroviral drugs, I had an HIV-negative baby. Many years later, I am still alive. Let’s come together to end the spread of HIV.”
That is a message from an elderly woman in a TV testimonial advertisement sponsored by the Ghana AIDS Commission. There are three or so other ones including one that involves a couple. In addition, I recently heard a radio jingle that is reminiscent of the “if it is not on, it is not in” key message in HIV/AIDS campaign of yore.
Besides, the Ghana AIDS Commission sponsored the ‘Hits Old Skuul reunion’ programme hosted in November by Hitz FM and is still sponsoring Mentor XI on TV3. I get it. They are targeting the youth. Rightly so.
At a point, the intensity in the HIV/AIDS campaign got me wondering what could be responsible for the sudden revival. Then it occurred to me that December 1 (World AIDS day) was approaching. So on Thursday, December 1, 2022, the world marked this special day set aside to create awareness on the need to prevent the spread of the Human-Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) under the theme “Equalize”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) used the occasion to call on global leaders and citizens to boldly recognize and address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic; and equalize access to essential HIV services, particularly for children and key populations and their partners – men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and people in prisons.
From the testimonials offered by the models in the Ghana AIDS Commission adverts under reference and in the absence of any contrary information from the Association of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), I want to believe that Ghana has no challenges with access to essential HIV services. What we clearly have issues with, is prevention of the spread of the disease.
At the onset of the disease, we all got educated on its ABCD: A-Abstain, B– Be faithful, C-Condom use, failure which D– Death results. Overtime, this information has been discarded because we are all under the erroneous perception that HIV/AIDS is no longer a public health concern.
Additionally, the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs which eliminated, nay extended the onset of the D above, took away the fear associated with the disease when it first broke. Some persons who are desirous of perpetuating their promiscuous lifestyles found solace in the C and continued unabated. Some have suffered D in the process while others have been sheer lucky.
Meanwhile, the God-fearing ones latched on to A and B and have remained free from the ramifications HIV/AIDS.
Increased rate of infections
In the past, pari passu the public education on the ABCD of HIV/AIDS was the modes of transmission, which we were told are body fluids- semen, blood and saliva (mixed with blood).
Somehow, the campaigns against the spread of what was christened ‘deadly disease’ died down for a long while. I have no doubt that lack of funds had so much to do with it. Cleary, the consequences of the lull in public education have come back to haunt us.
That’s because it turns out that I was wrong in assuming that the recent increased rate of advertisement on HIV/AIDS is due, solely, to the then forthcoming World AIDS day.
Really, the infection rate is said to have started increasing. Speaking on the Super Morning Show on Monday, November 28, 2022, the Director-General of Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene said 17,000 new HIV infections were recorded in 2021. He also revealed that a total of 23,495 people in Ghana tested positive for HIV in the first half of this year (January to June).
Thankfully, he offered possible reasons for the increase in infections. “Some think that HIV is no longer a public health threat while others think it doesn’t exist anymore.”
Dr. Atuahene added, “some young people see sex as a means of making income. We have hookups, which entail young men and women offering themselves as sexual providers to sugar mummies and daddies. All these expose them to HIV/AIDS.”
The street hawking of sex
Per the statement- “some young people see sex as a means of making income,” Dr. Atuahene made reference to an issue that has been boggling my mind for some time now.
Earlier in the year, I had an august visitor from the USA. As is usually the case, the ‘Yankees’ bring down many stuff meant for families of their friends, and these things must be delivered to the recipients. As such, we had a lot of rounds to do. And we did.
For the first time, I drove to some parts of Accra that I had never set foot at- Ablekuma, Medie, Agbogba, Kwabenya, Kpone, Ashongman and the Ecobank area on the Spintex road.
In the night, at some of these areas, I came across a bevy of young beautiful girls of all sizes, shapes and colours displaying their bodies for sale. On my own Accra-Kasoa route, there is a popular joint between the Weija junction and SCC stretch. The sex traders display their ‘wares’ amid blaring music in the dimly lit environment. From what I hear, the chunk of them hail from one of our neighbouring ECOWAS countries, some elements of whose culture we have grown so fond of.
They employ all manner of gestures to attract the attention of prospective clients. This includes shaking their bum and raising their boobs in their almost naked state.
There are also a group of these young ladies who do what is called ‘room service’. In their case, they give their phone numbers out, so you call them when you need their services. I hear they either do short time (Stay a few hours with you) or long time (Overnight). Essentially, there are three types- street, brothel, and escort prostitution.
Then there is this story written by my colleague Latif Iddrisu in which one of them, Becky, revealed that she uses a magic cream to attract men. “I have a place that I can go, they’ll give me some little things I’ll do, I can rub my powder, rub my honey, my cream, my oil, to make a guy even if you are passing, only your looking to me can make you stop and after everything, any amount of money I ask you to give me, you will give it to me,” Becky said.
Hm! Some are so beautiful I wondered what on earth would make them choose the oldest profession as their means of livelihood. By the way, I found out that the earliest known record of prostitution dates back to 2400 BC in ancient Babylonia.
While in wonderland, I recalled that it is common knowledge for young girls to use ‘sugar daddies’ and young men to use ‘sugar mummies’ as their sources of funding for education. For the uninitiated, ‘sugar mummies’ and ‘daddie’s are older men and women who seek sexual favours from their younger clients and pay them hefty amounts of money in return. For others, it is simply a case of satisfying the basic necessities of life- Food, clothes and shelter.
Evidently, the root cause points to one thing- earn a living by hook or crook. And what better way than what someone said to me the other day, “use what you have to get what you want.”
According to Sciencenordic.com, “Money is cited by 85% of the prostitutes as their motivation. Some have to pay for housing, food and day care for their children, others must pay for their drug abuse.”
Interestingly, prostitution is said to play an important role in society. As indicated above, it provides those involved a source of income, provides a sexual alternative for men who lack a sexual partner or are dissatisfied with their current sexual partner.
But is this proper? Information available at https://www.nswp.org/country/ghana indicates that, “there is no law that says selling sex is illegal, but there is a law against anyone living on the earnings of prostitution, which effectively criminalises all sex work. There are also laws against soliciting in a public place.”
Actually, the literature says “persons involved in prostitution could be criminalised under the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29).”
Why then do our law enforcers allow such public display of sex for sale? Especially when unprotected sex is a key mode of transmission of the disease. Your guess is as good as mine.
Although there are reported cases of Police swoops on prostitutes occasionally, the perpetrators return to their trade almost immediately they are released. Such a worrying phenomenon.
It’s time to go
If it is truly the case that unprotected sex accounts for the highest number of infections, then officials of the Ghana Aids Commission, UNAIDS, the law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders need to evolve a strategy to stem the booming sex trade.
I do not have the details, but I dare say that the recent surge in the number of infections as announced by the Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, can be traced to the key populations and their partners – men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and people in prisons.
The need to intensify education among these populations, notably sex workers, can therefore not be overemphasized. Any meagre funds that may be allocated for this purpose must not be wasted on workshops and seminars in expensive hotels. One-on-one engagements with the target audience is highly recommended.
Sensitization programmes in our schools, churches and markets will also go a long way in getting especially, young girls to know the dangers involved in offering their bodies, instead of brains, for sale.
The last time I checked, the price of the male condom has been affected by the inflation being experienced in the country. Three of them are being sold for GHC5.00. Therefore, condoms, male and female types, should be given out at no cost during such engagements.
That is because the implications of the surge in HIV/AIDS infection rates are dire. According to Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, “the majority of people with the infection are within the economically active population. This means there will be low productivity, which will affect the national income of the country if people fall sick and cannot work.”
Thankfully, there is treatment for anyone who has already contracted the disease. Those of us who have not been infected, let’s avoid the alluring looks of these sex hawkers when we come across them. As has been revealed by Becky above, merely looking at them could draw you into a night out with a hooker. So flee upon sighting any of them.
Like anything that is offered for sale, the laws of demand and supply apply. The less the demand, the lower the supply, ceteris paribus (all things being equal). Thus, if we men decide not to patronise the services of these ladies of the night, the oldest profession will become extinct. May be.
Bidāẏa – That’s goodbye in Bengali.
Let God lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.
The writer works at Myjoyonline.com. He is also the author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so. Eric can be reached via email email@example.com. The two books cost GHC80.00.
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