Ghanaians living with HIV and AIDS have appealed to society to accept them as normal human beings who are willing and able to contribute to national development.

According to them, scorning at them or stigmatizing those who have openly declared their HIV status would only discourage many others from joining the crusade against the pandemic.

Mr Kofi Amofah, President, National Association of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+) made the appeal at the launch of a month of intense advocacy and prevention activities across the country culminating in the celebration of 2014 World AIDS Day on December 01 at Mandela Park, Ashaiman.

The Ghana AIDS Commission would promote and encourage the utilization of HIV services, especially, testing and counseling, condom use, treatment services and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The Commission would also intensify education towards behavioural change in order to reduce new infections and campaign vigorously against stigma and discrimination to mitigate the psychosocial impact of HIV and AIDS on the infected and affected.

This year’s World Aids Day would be celebrated on the theme:”Ghana towards an HIV free generation through PMTCT, Safe sex and Stigma Reduction”

Mr Amofah said, “We still suffer stigmatization and our human rights are violated in many places. We are discriminated in hospitals and in society.”

“We should be respected and applauded by society for coming out to state our status and not to be abused and discriminated against.”

According to him, many community based projects and programmes on HIV/AIDS have been scraped and expressed the fear that the campaign against the pandemic would remain a mere rhetoric if immediate steps are not taken to restore them.

Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur said in a speech reach read on his behalf that the government was committed to the protection of the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

He called on all Ghanaians to work towards the reduction of stigma adding, ”Stigma and discrimination continue to be one of the main barriers hampering efforts at HIV testing, disclosure of one’s status to the partner or a relative and access to treatment ,care and support services.”

He said the government had provided 20 million Ghana cedis to some pharmaceutical industries to support the production of quality medicines for Ghanaians.

“Government will continue to provide leadership for this initiative and ensure that our pharmaceutical companies meet the criteria in order to obtain the necessary World Health Organisation (WHO) pre-qualification to produce anti-retroviral medicines (ARV) locally. This is the most efficient and affordable means to get People Living with HIV on treatment.”

He said the government had directed the Ministry of Health to scrap the 5 Ghana cedi service charge paid by people living with HIV for treatment.

“I am reliably informed that with the support of our development partners, the Ghana AIDS Commission has also supported the registration of people living with HIV on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and this has helped to improve access to health services,” the Vice President said.