'No blood-based study on Aids conducted'.

Author:Boateng, Osei
Position:Ghana
 
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February, usually a dry month in Ghana because of the cold Harmattan winds that blow over the country from the Sahara Desert, suddenly turned out to be a most lively month this year in two respects.

First, the former health minister (now roads and transport minister), Dr Richard Anane, was wrongly ordered by the National Media Commission on 15 February to apologise to the students of the University of Ghana, Legon, for misleading the public that 17% of the student population had been infected with the HIV virus.

Second, the Supreme Court ruled on 28 February that the Fast Track High Court (FTC) system established last year to speedily try certain criminal and civil eases, was "unconstitutional".

All of a sudden, February had ceased to be a dry month in President Agyekum Kufuor's country.

The hullabaloo over Dr Anane's alleged faux pas led to the programme manager of the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), Dr Kweku Yeboah, to put on the record a most shocking statement.

"No population-based study [on HIV and Aids], which is based on blood samples, has ever been carried out in Ghana because of logistic and ethical constraints," Dr Yeboah told a stunned nation, inadvertently demolishing in one fell swoop all the doomsday statistics that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS have routinely published on HIV and Aids in Ghana.

Suddenly, people started to ask; "If no blood-sample-based study has ever been done in Ghana, how did (and do) the WHO and UNAIDS get their statistics on Aids in Ghana?"

So far, no answers have come from Geneva (home to both the WHO and UNAIDS), but if the answers do come (if they will come at all), their implications could reverberate throughout Africa.

For years, many people around the world, including President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and our own magazine, New African, have questioned how HIV and Aids statistics on Africa are arrived at. Both the WHO and UNAIDS quote over 26 million Africans currently infected with HP!, and over 20 million already dead from Aids in the past 20 years. Now, the Ghana experience of "no blood-sample-based study ever done in the country" appears to threaten the whole credibility of those statistics.

Health minister

Dr Richard Anane, who was recently moved from health to roads and transport by President Kufuor, was reported by the Aecra-based Daily Guide on 16 July last year to have told parliament that 17% of the students of Ghana's premier university had HIV.

The paper had...

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