New HIV infections high among middle class - Survey
New infections of HIV and AIDS among the middle class and urban working population in Ghana are increasing at an alarming rate and can lead to a serious pandemic in the country, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) in Ghana has warned.
According to the Country Director of UNAIDS, Mr Girmay Haile, data available indicate that the situation portends a possible HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country in the next few years if care is not taken.
Mr Haile, who made this known in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said: “the demography of Ghana is rapidly becoming urban, with majority of people living in urban centres, and HIV is becoming an urban epidemic.”
Making reference to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2014 of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Mr Haile said the data showed that married couples and students, especially university students, were the groups which had the most unprotected sex but were unwilling to know their HIV status.
The survey was conducted among people between 15 and 49 years.
It included a series of questions that elicited information from respondents’ knowledge on HIV prevention, awareness of modes of HIV transmission and behaviours that could prevent the spread of HIV.
Among the respondents, 78 percent of men and 52 percent of women had never been tested.
The survey showed that overall, one percent of the women reported that they had had two or more partners in the past 12 months, while among the women who had two or more partners in the past 12 months, 11 percent reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse.
Fourteen percent of the men aged between 15 and 49 reported that they had two or more partners in the past 12 months, while 19 per cent reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse.
Mr Haile said due to the numerous campaigns on HIV and AIDS, new infections among key populations, including sex workers and truck drivers, had reduced, while infections among the middle class and urban professionals were rising at an alarming rate.
The Country Director said unmarried professionals and regular sex partners in urban centres were among the high proportion of new infections.
“Today, we are seeing a high number of despondent couples,” he said, adding that “this same group has multiple sex partners outside their marital homes.”
Making reference to how Nigeria had become the second highest HIV prevalence in Africa after South Africa, Mr Haile said for close to nine years nobody had associated HIV with Nigeria, but today the urban centres and cities were recording the highest prevalence.
He said in Ghana, the UNAIDS started sounding the alarm bells in 2013 about a possible outbreak of the disease in the urban centres and cities but much had not been done about it.