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An HIV/AIDS orphan shares her true life story

By GNA

Many school children worldwide are suffering because they have been diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients having contracted the disease from their parents either through birth or the use of common sharp instruments like blade, knives or scissors.

This is evidenced by a visit to the Fevers Unit at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.

Statistics available at the National AIDS Control Programme indicate that there are about 17,000 children infected with the disease in Ghana, with almost 3,000 new child infections yearly.

Out of this figure, more than 5,000 require Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ARTs,) but less than 400 of them have access to the drugs and boosters.

The number of AIDS orphans worldwide is expected to increase from 20 million to 25 million children by 2010.

In addition to the psychological trauma of losing a parent, orphans are less likely to receive better health care, education and other needed services because they are often threatened by malnutrition, illness and HIV infection, and are easy prey to many forms of exploitation, forced labour, defilement, prostitution and child soldiering.

An 18-year-old Ghanaian orphaned by the disease when her parents and a sibling died shared her experience with journalists when members of Global Movement For Children (GMFC), a group of children across Ghana interacted with the Media and Policy Makers, under the theme "Take the Lead. Stop AIDS; Keep the Promise; The Time is Now" sought to increase children's participation and the right to advocate on HIV/AIDS, prevention, care for AIDS related orphans and increase of vulnerable children.

Sadia 18 (not her real name) born into a family of six from Navrongo in the Upper East Region and a member of GMFC shared her life experience with this writer.

"It was a happy family with my father an educationist and my mother a trader. Basic needs of the family were available and education was on course without problems.

"We were living happily together until my father contracted the disease and infected his loving wife, who also infected the last sibling through birth and she died leaving the rest of the family in sorrow and pain.

"Memories of the past and how I lost my parents and a sibling is unbearable that tears always flowed from my eyes anytime I remembered the suffering we have to endure due to the havoc caused by HIV/AIDS," she said.

Sadia said she could not recount how her parents contracted the disease, but recalled that her father became seriously sick in 2001 and had to put her education on-hold and take care of him while my mother went out to look for menial job to carter for the family.

Unfortunately, before the end of 2001, he died but before his death the last sibling, who contracted the disease from both parents died.

Three years after the death of her father and sibling, she was enjoying her breakfast one morning when her mother asked her to invite her younger siblings into her room for a short and important message.

She asked them to take heart and forgive her that she had contracted the disease and had been diagnosed to be HIV positive.

Shortly after her confession, she fell ill and became so weak that she could not walk or perform any household chores.

They had no hope and the future was bleak since they had stopped school due to financial difficulties.

It was a relative's wife, who out of sympathy used to give us food that was not regular, with the hope that their mother's condition would improve.

Due to persistent hunger they were forced to work as labourers on people's farm.

Death suddenly stretched its icy hands on the mother at the Navrongo War Memorial Hospital and they became orphans.

At school, some of her mates mocked at her and called her names because her parents died of HIV/AIDS.

He intimate friends did not want to come go near her because they thought she would infect them with the disease.

Pressure was brought to bear on the only friend, who turned deaf ears to what the others that shunned her company were saying and assisted her to stop.

She said her dream of becoming a medical practitioner in the future was shattered and had to engage in anything she could lay hands on to generate money.

During her predicament, she came into contact with many people including a young man called Eric, who pretended he was going to assist her only to rape her in the end.

She did not disclose this incident to anyone for fear of what might happen to me afterwards, but as fate would have it, she became pregnant at 16 and was confused.

She kept the pregnancy for four months without anybody knowing and after the fourth month she told her friends, who escorted her to an elderly woman and a herbalist in her community.

The herbalist promised to abort the pregnancy and because she had no money she stole her aunt's money to pay her.

When she applied the medication she bled profusely and had to be to be hospitalised. Due to this, the community saw her as a deviant.

With no one to turn to and the unfriendly environment created, she had to run away from Navrongo.

Sadia said her Mother's last words: "Look at me; it is not the beautiful, rich nor poor who contract HIV/AIIDS but everyone can get infected," always re-echoed in her ears.

A GNA Feature by Albert Oppong Ansah