I wanted to take some time today on World AIDS day to talk to you about why AIDS awareness is something I feel so passionate about.
Firstly, some pretty shocking statistics. At the end of 2010 there were 34 million people in the world living with HIV or AIDS. In my home country of Ghana, over a quarter of a million people are infected with the disease, and whilst education and medical provision is improving all the time, the condition continues to devastate lives and families. Hundreds of thousands of children in Ghana have lost at least one parent to the disease and many more have been left as orphans.
The numbers are truly staggering, but behind each statistic is a personal story of tragedy. Hearing these stories first hand from orphans that I have met in Ghana are both heart-breaking and incredibly moving.
My charity, the Menaye Charity Organisation, has, over the years, provided financial support to a number of orphanages across Ghana. A few years ago, when I was visiting one of the orphanages, I met a little boy who was infected with HIV after his mother passed it down to him. His mother and father had both already died of the disease and so the little boy was left to fight each day without the support of his family. The orphanages in Ghana do incredible work, literally saving lives every day, but they are no substitute for a healthy, happy family life. The fact that the possibility to grow up with these basics of human life had been taken away from this little boy before he was even out of the womb, is truly devastating.
What is worse, is that it is so unnecessary. With better education, screening, and medical care, so many more lives could be saved.
One of the major problems in Ghana, and again something that I have witnessed firsthand, is the lack of knowledge about prevention of the infection spreading. In some areas the use of contraceptives as a solution is not only not known about, it is sometimes actively discouraged. There is also a lack of awareness about the way HIV and AIDS is spread to unborn children.
What is needed is more education, easier access to protection and better medication. It is not an easy task, but together, we can improve the situation.
No child should be born in to this world without hope. Spare a thought for the millions of children across the world who suffer every day at the hands of this disease and do what you can to help raise awareness wherever you are in the world.
God bless you all,