While thousands were merrymaking in Kwahu in the Eastern Region this Easter, a dozen others went to work screening and advising revelers about the dangers of HIV-AIDS.
Jesus Christ was crucified in Kwahu. Or something like that, says the legends of oral tradition.
One thing Kwahu has in common with Golgotha where Christian saviour - Jesus Christ was crucified is that they both have significant mountains that attract thousands of people yearly.
But the stark difference is that while Jesus Christ was led to Golgotha to die, patrons go to Kwahu to make merry during Easter
The paragliders, party riders, women, sex, booze and music, are the things patrons enjoy without any hindrance.
Dancing competition at Obomeng Mega street jam organised by Adom FM
But when all is said and done, the Monday after Easter is usually the time people pack their bags and luggage and head to their destinations, mostly to cool off at Accra’s beaches.
This is the time people start to hear several stories on the mountains ranging from how people were robbed of their electronic gadgets, had their vehicles broken into, fights between lovers, and those who had to sell their dresses, shoes and watches to raise money to foot their transportation back home.
Beyond the loudness of everything in Kwahu is the silent activity of the Ghana AIDS Commission and its allied partners.
They were on the look-out when patrons were on an expedition for fun. Sacrificing a day with the family and friends, the team worked long hours throughout the period to educate, test and counsel the thousands of holidaymakers on HIV/AIDS.
The Commission has over the years, collaborated with the two Municipal Assemblies that host the Easter –Kwahu East and Kwahu West- and deployed scores of health workers and counselors trained in HIV/AIDS testing and counseling.
Voluntary Counseling Test (VCT) has proven to be an important intervention that enables improvement in the awareness, prevention and control of HIV in Ghana. Nurses who are appropriately trained in VCT play a pivotal role in the successful provision of VCT services.
The team received support from Golda Asante who is the Head of the Technical Support Unit for HIV/AIDS in the Eastern Region.
Counseling a person before a voluntary HIV test can be a very difficult task because counselors would need to understand the needs of the volunteers who may be unwilling or hesitant in volunteering.
And this is where the counselors and peer educators demonstrate their skill and cleverness in communicating with the volunteers at each of the centres. Their work was mainly to convince people to come for testing.
Of course, their Easter bait for voluntary testing was - free condoms, male and female- giveaway. The results were instant!
The Ghana AIDS Commission had to unpack the questions on the minds of the holidaymakers concerning their HIV/AIDS status in order to save their own lives.
For the three days, Myjoyonline.com’s radar was on Mr. Isaac Ayamga, Assistant Director and focal person on HIV/AIDS at the Kwahu West Municipal Assembly.
He is married and has three children. He leaves his home at Nsuta in Nkawkaw, as early as 6am to ensure his colleagues at the various centres set up by 7:00am each day.
They close after 6pm. Sometimes later than that.
90–90–90 is the global treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic
By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Mr. Ayamga was constantly on the move and on phone attending to calls from colleagues at other centres. They called either to report shortage of materials like forms, test kits or condoms which were supplied free of cost to the volunteers. His other colleague, Happy Agbenorlawodze, the Municipal HIV/AIDS Coordinator for Kwahu West, was running around doing same.
Their major obstacle to the swift response to the needs of his team members, was the heavy traffic within the Nkawkaw township.
Even without the Easter festivity, the traffic situation in Nkawkaw could best be described as a monster.
Although the 2018 Kwahu Easter saw a dip in patronage at most event centres across Kwahu, it did little to change the ever-present traffic of cars and people, the focal person told Myjoyonline.com adding that “the traffic made moving around quite challenging”.
His team alone screened more than 3,100 people. Some tested positive - a new knowledge to them that needed lots of advice and encouragement from the team.
One of them was a 64-year-old woman. Those who tested positive were subsequently referred to major facilities where they would be placed on medication to suppress the virus and counseled on the need to be responsible with their sex life.
Mr. Ayamga felt a sense of fulfillment that comes with exceeding the target set for his team by the Ghana AIDS Commission.
But this sense was mainly in knowing that the sacrifices made by the VCT team will go a long way to impact positively on the lives of those who volunteered as well as persons who would have been infected had these volunteers not turned up.
So next time you are in Kwahu to enjoy the Easter festivities, know that a team is there, sacrificing family and fun - and the inexplicable weather changes there, just to help you know your HIV status.