A/R: 30% of people living with HIV/AIDS refuse anti-retroviral treatment

A/R: 30% of people living with HIV/AIDS refuse anti-retroviral treatment
Mrs. Olivia Graham, Ashanti Regional Technical Head, Ghana Aids Commission

By Nicholas Osei-Wusu

The Ashanti region had about 70,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS as of the end of 2021, with last year’s data still being processed, the region has seen a consistent downward trend of new infections of the virus since 2019.

The number of new cases reduced from 4,000 to 3,590 in 2020 and further reduced to 3,121 the following year, with a regional prevalence of one point eight-six per cent of the total population of Ashanti.

But, out of the about 70,000 persons living with the virus in the region, nearly 30 per cent have refused to be put on the anti-retroviral treatment, ART, the prescribed medication to keep them healthy for a relatively long time, including some expectant mothers who tested positive to the virus in their first trimester.

This is against the fact that, there has not been any shortage of the ART anywhere in the region, at least this year.

When reached for what could possibly account for the negative attitude towards the drugs, the Ashanti Regional Head of the Ghana Aids Commission, Mrs. Olivia Graham, assigned among others, stigmatization.

“The challenge is still stigmatization and discrimination when it comes to HIV/AIDS. It’s still there. Because of stigma, people don’t want to test to know their status. Some are in denial. There are some people when you tell them their status, they don’t want to believe it. Some also decide to seek alternative remedies like prayers”, Mrs. Graham disclosed.

According to our Ashanti Regional Correspondent, Nicholas Osei-Wusu, analysis of officially sourced data from the Ghana Aids Commission has revealed that also that, even though the regional data show a downward trajectory in new infections, the Kumasi metropolis has been recording increasing new and total cases. 

While the population of persons living with the virus and disease was about 13,000 in 2020 with 588 new cases, the figures rose to 19,000 with 800 new cases and with a prevalence of five point seven percent the following year.

This caused Kumasi to overtake Kwadaso Municipality as the administrative district with the highest cases of infection for the first time in three consecutive years.

Further analysis of the data showed that unlike previously, when mining areas were said to have relatively higher infection rates of HIV and AIDS due to the influx of locals and foreigners in pursuit of money in those areas, that unenviable record has shifted to the urban centres, at least in the past five years in the region, such that the two Obuasi areas, thus Obuasi Municipality and Obuase East districts, are now out of the top five districts with the highest cases and prevalence of HIV and AIDS. 

“In the Ashanti region currently, it’s Kumasi, KMA, that is on top. It’s an urban area and it’s cosmopolitan. We’ve commercial activities here. And also, we’ve a lot of cars coming into the centre of Kumasi”, Mrs. Olivia Graham, proffered reasons for the turn of events.

Further analysis of the Ghana Aids Commission data indicates that just about two percent of newborns were infected with the virus from their mothers as against the projected five percent for 2021. 

Meanwhile, the Ghana Aids Commission has had to re-strategize its campaigns from the previous mass outreach services. 

The Commission, while exploring new funding sources, is using social media, targeted media advertisement, and communication centres, among other specific approaches, in reaching its targets with the educational messages of the nature, mode of transmission, and burden on the individual, family, and national level to cause a behavioural change. 

According to the Ghana Aids Commission, unprotected sex still remains the main cause of infection, hence the need for abstinence or the use of condoms for sex as the major means of subduing the spread of the virus and AIDS. 

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