23,495 people tested positive for HIV in six months
According to the statistics of the National Program for the Control of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS, a total of 23,495 people tested positive for HIV in the first half of this year.
As a result, the network of institutions that manage the country’s HIV and AIDS response has launched national stakeholder engagement as part of processes to evaluate interventions to achieve better outcomes.
The non-profit organization Ghana HIV&AIDS Network (GHANET), which leads HIV interventions in the country, said the move became necessary because despite efforts to reduce new infections and end AIDS, the desired effect appeared to be far from being achieved.
Speaking at one such stakeholder meeting in Accra, network president Ernest Ortsin said the increase, along with the adverse outcomes, justifies how critical it has become for stakeholders to review existing interventions to help keep the increase under control. .
The workshop was organized by the network in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Program (NACP).
It was on the theme: “Rethinking HIV interventions for vulnerable populations in the country”.
Participants included media people, politicians, representatives of security agencies, traditional and religious leaders, market women and others.
They discussed new programs and interventions to be adopted for action in the country’s next operational plan (COP).
Consultant in the field of public health and vice-chairman of the National Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund, Dr. Nii Nortey Hanson-Nortey, mentioned the key focus of national interventions which include mass education, testing, administration of pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis, promotion. condom use and antiretroviral treatment.
However, he cited stigma, the use of a clinical-only approach to administering pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis and antiretroviral treatment as major obstacles to his efforts.
The consultant added that stigma reduction, risk communication and behavior change, which were some of the pragmatic measures to combat the spread of the disease, were characterized by untargeted and tedious messaging, as well as cultural norms, and said that these were the reasons a rethink was needed.
Dr. Hanson-Nortey also argued that there are signs of a lack of political will, weak health systems and lack of support for community organizations that are holding back progress.
“People should start rethinking and not hiding their HIV/AIDS status; after all, it is like a chronic disease that is not only sexually acquired, but also transmitted,” he said.
He also said that there should be access to condoms for both sexes, regardless of their age, as research has shown that increasing the availability of condoms has helped reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS.
“Our welfare system makes it difficult for a young person to go to the pharmacy and buy a condom because they will be labeled as a prostitute and asking for sex,” he said.
According to him, stigma in communities has had a wide-ranging impact on both HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, including reducing individuals’ willingness to get tested or treated.
The way forward
Other speakers said that reducing new infections and ending AIDS is a shared responsibility because its impact is felt by all.
They said people need to know their status to ensure the maximum percentage of treatment coverage, which could lead to a high percentage of people with suppressed viral loads and unable to transmit.
They also advised people to stay safe by following preventive protocols such as avoiding unprotected sex with people they are not sure about, among others.
The NACP Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Rev. Kenneth Ayeh Danso, said in 2021, data estimated that there were 345,599 people living with HIV and AIDS in the country.
“As of June 2022, only 262,042 people were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), of which 5% were children and 75% were women.
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“The statistics show that men are not reporting, a situation we need to reverse to achieve the 95-95-95 targets,” he said.