The decision of the government of Ghana in the 2014 budget to remove tax on the importation of condoms into the country is one prudent measure to address the issue of HIV infection.
The resort to the usage of condoms against sexually transmitted diseases can be regarded as one of the inexpensive way an individual or couple can use to prevent acquiring the virus.
A survey conducted by the Ghana News Agency in July 2013 on the usage of condoms in Accra shows that patronage of the product has gone up. The survey says that users of the product have become more aware of the safety that comes along with using condoms to curb contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Interestingly, the survey indicated that patronage in the past was low as the use of condom was considered as immoral because it promoted sexual promiscuity.
However, the perception has changed due to recent publicity that focuses on the safety that condoms provide to users.
Delivering the 2014 budget in parliament, the finance and economic planning minister, Seth Tekper announced the decision of government to remove tax on condoms imposed on the products in 2013, which takes effect in 2014.
With Ghana’s population predominantly youth, the decision becomes vital for the sexually active youth to have access to condoms as an alternative to abstinence.
Again, the move will help to sustain the progress achieved on reduction in HIV and AIDS prevalence rate and achieve the targeted reduction from 1.37% to 1.16% by 2016.
The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) 2012 report released early this year indicates that the National HIV prevalence rate has dropped to 1.37% from the previous 1.50% in 2011.
The report also estimates that 235,982 persons are living with HIV and AIDS in Ghana, with 7,991 new infections and 11,655 AIDS deaths in 2012. Though the report estimates a decrease in HIV and AIDS infection in 2012, it called for more advocacy and awareness to help achieve the target.
Unprotected sex by the youth has over the years led to unsafe abortions, however, with the availability and affordability of condom for the youth, the trend is more likely to reduce, thereby assisting the country to achieve the millennium development goal on maternal mortality.
The introduction of 1% tax on condoms and other imported items in July 2013 by the finance and economic planning ministry was an attempt to reduce the budget deficit from 12.10% to 9% in the 2014 fiscal year.
The decision raised lots of concerns by health campaigners who expressed reservations about the proposal to impose a one-percent tax on the prophylactics, saying it could dissuade people from using them and harm HIV prevention initiatives.
The persons living with HIV/AIDS argued that the proposed tax on condoms would increase the rate of unwanted pregnancies and the acquisition of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), saying it will be catastrophic to the nation’s health.
Rev John Azumah, one of the Heart to Heart HIV/AIDS Ambassadors welcomed the government’s decision to remove the tax. According to him, the fight again HIV/AIDS needs a consented effort and government needs to play the lead role.
However, the national women’s organizer of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) Anita De Sosoo suggested that there is the need for the government to impose more taxes on condoms to ensure discipline in relationships in Ghana.
She is of the opinion that the introduction of more taxes on condoms will reduce the large number of single mothers in Ghana.
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