In March 1986, the first case of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was reported in Ghana. In January 1991, a more detailed report on AIDS in Ghana appeared in which 107 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive cases were said to have been recorded in 1987. Three hundred thirty-three people were identified as HIV positive by the end of March 1988, and there was a further increase to 2,744 by the end of April 1990. Of the April 1990 number, 1,226 were reported to have contracted AIDS. According to WHO annual reports, the disease continued to spread in the country. During 1991 the Comfy Anokye Teaching Hospital reported about fifty AIDS cases each month.
Although the reported figures were far below the number of known cases in East Africa and Central Africa, they were still alarming for a medical system already overburdened by traditional health problems. Seminars and conferences held to discuss the disease include the 1990 annual conference of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. The conference theme was the impact of international prostitution and the spread of AIDS. The Ministry of Health, with funding from WHO, had also set up surveillance systems to track the AIDS virus as part of its medium-term (1989-93) plan. According to the program, a countrywide sample of both high- and low-risk groups had been identified for testing at regular intervals to measure the prevalence of the disease. A thirty-member National Advisory Council on AIDS was established in late 1989 to advise the government on policy matters relating to the control and prevention of AIDS in the country. The Ministry of Health lacks adequately trained personnel and information management systems to combat the disease.
Because of continued spread of infection and improved reporting, the country recorded 12,500 AIDS cases by the end of 1994, placing Ghana second only to neighboring Côte d'Ivoire, where more than 16,600 cases of AIDS were recorded, in the West Africa subregion. Of the Ghanaian AIDs cases, about 8,000 were people aged fifteen to forty-five; the remainder were mostly children aged five to ten. At the same time, Ghanaian health officials estimated the number of HIV positive cases at about 300,000. The incidence of HIV positive and AIDS cases was highest in Ashanti Region.
The most-affected age-group in Ghana was young working adults. Some 70 percent of the total infected population was female; on the basis of this finding, the Ministry of Health anticipated a significant increase in HIV-positive births in the future. Considering the gravity of the problem, in February 1994 the National Parliament recommended that a select committee on education and health be established to study and make recommendations for measures to control AIDS. In the meantime, radio, television, and billboard advertisements are being used as part of a national AIDS awareness program.
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