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Eliminating AIDS by 2030 target difficult- Ghana AIDS Commission

Mrs. Olivia Graham, Ashanti Regional Technical Coordinator, GAC.

By Nicholas Osei-Wusu

The Ashanti Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Mrs. Olivia Graham, says even though the region has been recording a marginal reduction in the cases of new infections of HIV since 2020, the nominal figures as well as prevalence remain very high compared with the annual national target. 

The rate of new HIV infections in Ashanti has reduced from 4,500 in 2020 to about 4,000 last year, a figure higher than the national target of 3,000 new infections per annum thereby making attainment of the 2030 elimination target of AIDS very difficult. 

Mrs. Graham made this known to GBC in Kumasi after a street procession to create enhanced public awareness about HIV/AIDS. 

A GhaNet member (right) sharing Condoms, etc. to a member of the public.

The street procession was organised by the Ghana HIV/AIDS Network, GhaNet, with the Regional Secretariat of the Ghana AIDS Commission and the Health Service as a prelude to this year’s World AIDS Day commemoration on the first of this month.

The procession involved members of GhaNet and other interested persons who walked from the Central Post Office through some of the crowded areas of Adum, PZ, Kejetia, and Pampaso to the Centre for National Culture amidst fun fare. 

They also carried placards communicating various messages, educating members of the public about the pandemic and the measures in place to fight it.

They distributed freely both male and female condoms, sachets of lubricants, self-testing kits, and educational tracks. 

GBC’s Correspondent observed a high level of interest in the objective of the procession as well as the freebies shared by the organisers.

Two members of the public, Kwadwo Baafi and Collin Berko, shared their views about how society could effectively fight HIV infections and AIDS.

“It is advisable for any would-be couple, whether for marriage or erotic relationship, to first go for the voluntary testing to know their HIV status because of what could happen after sex. Otherwise, the use of condom becomes very essential,” said Kwadwo Baafi.

For his part, Collins Berko, a street vendor at Adum, opined, “it is immoral for anyone to throw away the sperm, so I don’t agree with them distributing condoms. I’d rather ask people to abstain from fornication.”

The procession ended at the Kumasi Centre for National Culture, commonly called the Cultural Centre, where an expert with the Ghana Health Service took the participants and other members of the public through the safest and effective use of the self-testing kits for persons who wish to test for their HIV status at home.

The Ashanti Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana Aids Commission, Mrs. Olivia Graham, disclosed that, though the number of persons living with HIV and AIDS in the region is currently about 72,000, the rate of new infections has reduced from 4,500 in 2020 to 4,000 last year but expressed doubt about the feasibility of Ghana attaining an elimination of AIDS by the 2030 target date.

“We’re seeing a decline, but not the way we want to see it. In the whole country, we want to see less than 3000 people getting infected with HIV, but currently, in the country, we’ve about 17, 000 in the year 2022.”

When asked, comparing the national new infection target against the real figures if elimination of AIDS by the 2030 target date is feasible, the Ashanti Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana Aids Commission said, “we’re looking at it. It’s going to be difficult.

That is why we’re bringing in a lot of strategies. For instance, the self-testing kits. We’re hoping people who usually don’t want to come to the health facilities or during outreaches to test would be interested in taking home the test kits to test at home,” Mrs. Graham said. 

She repeated that about 40 per cent of people living with HIV and AIDS have still not accepted the Ante Retroviral Therapy citing stigmatisation and refusal for voluntary testing by members of the public as major setbacks to the fight against the twin menace.

Mrs. Graham said the introduction and increased advocacy about the self-testing kits is an addition to the national strategies to subdue HIV and AIDS in Ghana and therefore encourage members of the public to patronise them to know their HIV statuses.

The Regional HIV and AIDS Focal Person of the Regional Health Service, Denis Banor, disclosed to GBC that, last year, four out of every 100 pregnant women who went for testing during Ante Natal Clinics tested positive for HIV before they were put on Ante Retroviral Therapy.

“Before the mothers are tested, we talk to them that being HIV positive is not a license to death”, he assured.

Denis Banor, Ashanti Regional HIV/AIDS Focal Person, GHS.

The Regional Chairman of GhaNet, Elder Ebenezer Sackey, described the outcome of the health walk as ‘awsome and successful.”

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