Iduapriem, (W/R) May 7, GNA - Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, Minister of Mines on Tuesday called on all mining companies that have not instituted workplace HIV/AIDS programme for their staff to do so without delay. She made the call when launching the Mines HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme (MINESHIELD) at the Iduapriem Mine of the AngloGoldAshanti near Tarkwa.
Mrs Bannerman said an HIV/AIDS workplace programme is critical for any organisation that wants to protect its staff from the disease, because the cost of HIV/AIDS infection to any organisation is heavy in terms of lost man-hours, medical bills, retraining and replacement of staff and funeral bills.
She said it is not therefore surprising that, many companies including mining companies are making an extra effort to protect their workforce by giving them intensive education on the dangers of the HIV/AIDS pandemic its prevention and control.
Mrs Bannerman commended mining companies already involved in the MINESHIELD programme for adopting this proactive approach to support their staff to protect themselves against the dreadful disease. She expressed the government's gratitude to the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for jointly funding the programme.
Mrs. Bannerman urged mine workers to pay heed and be guided by the MINESHIELD programme and to conduct themselves with discipline so as to avoid being afflicted by or afflicting other people with the disease.
She said the workers knowing their HIV/AIDS status is a good first step and hoped they will all avail themselves of the opportunity to find out and then, set themselves on a disciplined path to control their lives and preserve the lives of others especially their loved ones.
Mrs. Bannerman also hoped that those employees already affected by the HIV/AIDS virus will take advantage of voluntary counselling and the various treatment regimes, which include the use of the anti retroviral drugs provided by government to ameliorate their condition.
In a welcome address, Mr David Kwesi Renner, Managing Director of the Iduapriem Mine, said the Ghana Social Marketing Foundation (GSMF) International in partnership with the Ghana Chamber of Mines and the Mine Workers Union designed the project with 16 mining companies in the country.
He said the main objectives of MINESHIELD are to increase the number of persons who consistently report preventive behaviour such as abstaining, faithfulness or condom use, increase access to and sale of condoms, increase social support for persons living with HIV/AIDS and build capacity in each organisation to run a sustainable HIV/AIDS workplace programme
Mr Renner said the strategy that GSMF intends to adopt with MINESHIELD is to combine mass media and interpersonal community-based approaches, adding community outreach would form a core component of the project especially in high HIV prevalence areas identified in the mining communities.
Mr Renner said the components of MINESHIELD include the training and equipping of peer educators, development and distribution, advocacy at all levels, sexual transmitted infection treatment and referrals, among others.
In a statement read on her behalf, Ms Mary Carln Yates, the United States Ambassador said since 1998, the United States government has contributed an average of 4.5 million dollars a year to fighting HIV/AIDS in Ghana.
She said the focus has been to reduce the rate of infection and efforts have included behaviour change programmes, promotion and distribution of condoms, health worker training, advocacy, policy development and laboratory support.
Ms Yates said in 2003, her government spent approximately 7 million dollars on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support and this would grow to 8 to 10 million dollars a year from this year to 2008.
In a similar statement, Mr Arie Van Der Wiel, the Netherlands Ambassador said the Royal Netherlands Embassy has since 2002 stepped up its contribution towards the fight against the disease to 1.3 million dollars annually, with focus on interventions in the private sector and to strengthen the multi-sectoral approach to HIV/AIDS at district and community level.
He said the Embassy is also spending 14.5 million dollars annually to strengthen the health sector by supporting the government's five-year health programme.
Ms Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Office of the Ghana Chamber of Mines presided.