Ghana VP Explains How Country Has More Than Halved HIV/AIDS Rate
by: NPR Staff, NPR, June 20, 2011 11:06:00 am
Dramani Mahama, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, has recently visited the U.S. for a high level meeting at the United Nations on HIV/AIDS.
As Tell Me More caught up with him, he explains that Ghana is one of the countries that have made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDs. He says, "Since we launched our first national strategy plan and set up the Ghana AIDS commission, we have brought the prevalence rate down from nearly 4% to the current level of 1.5%."
Mahama says the nation is trying to achieve a zero mother-to-child transmission rate, and to combat the stigma associated with those having HIV/AIDS. He explains that the government is collaborating with community-based organizations to better educate locals about the diseases is about. He states, "People were afraid to eat from the same plate with an HIV-positive person or sharing things. Now that they know it's not a death sentence, even when you're HIV positive, I think people are coming around."
Furthermore, Dramani Mahama declares that many people do not know about the rapid changes occurring in Africa, and that the West has a negative perception of the country. He points out that countries in Africa have gone to international conferences, drafted new constitutions and held elections. "And so we've come a long way from the early '90s until now," he says, "Civil society organizations are more expressive, we have more media freedom, military dictatorships are extinct."
Dramani Mahama also has a personal interest in green jobs and the environment. He has especially spoken out about plastic pollution, and hopes that Africans will no longer have to use as many plastic bags, and if they use them, they should dispose of them properly. To help this effort, Mahama notes that the country has imposed a tax on plastics.
When talking about his forthcoming memoir, Mahama references the 1970s and 80s, explaining that it was when many Africans left the continent because of harassment or they were fed up with their current living conditions. "There was a death of knowledge and writing, and that was the period when I was forming my consciousness, and I think that period needs to be documented," he comments. Mahama adds that he builds stories around episodes from his personal life, and hopes that by doing so, he can show that that even though those are "the lost decades," other positive things happened.
Today, however, Mahama says, "We have a new growing oil industry, and incidentally, we have a lot of Ghanaians working with oil companies, and they are coming back." He states that the "brain drain" has become a "brain gain."