President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has given an assurance that the government will provide the political leadership and ensure sustained funding to reduce new HIV infections to the barest minimum.
He said the resolve of the government to deal with the menace head on stemmed from the fact that new infections among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 increased by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2016.
New infections across all ages during the same period increased by 21 per cent, he added.
He, therefore, called for a renewed national commitment to HIV prevention in order to stem the tide.
President Akufo-Addo gave the assurance in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Aviation, Ms Cecilia Dapaah, at the opening of the fourth National HIV and AIDS Conference in Accra last Tuesday.
The three-day conference is on the theme: “AIDS: Rethinking practices for maximum impact”.
The President said the gloomy picture of new HIV infections in Ghana was worrying, in view of the fact that the global picture was different, as new infections reduced by 16 per cent, with the steepest decline of 26 per cent occurring in Eastern and Central Africa.
HIV & AIDS conference
He said having a rising trend in new infections at a time when many African countries were seeing significant reductions in new infections called for the need to address the issue of sustained funding for strategic investments.
“Thanks to science and technology, we now have the knowledge and new tools to revolutionise HIV prevention in order to achieve the 90-90-90 treatment targets by 2020 and the ultimate goal of ending AIDS by 2030,” he added.
The 90-90-90 is a joint United Nations HIV and AIDS strategic campaign which summarises the 2020 target of 90 per cent of people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90 per cent of people who know their HIV status accessing treatment and 90 per cent of people receiving treatment achieving viral suppression within 12 months.
As the world aims at eliminating this menace by 2030, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends immediate initiation of anti-retroviral treatment (ART) after diagnosis and so a rapid scale-up of case finding, treatment and monitoring is key to meeting the 90-90-90 targets and further ending the HIV menace by 2030.
“We must re-think and be ready to change service delivery models that are not working and scale-up best practices to achieve the maximum impact we so much desire,” President Akufo-Addo added.
“It is my firm conviction that AIDS should no longer kill a person in the era of ART, thanks to advancement in science and technology. Yet, persons living with HIV die in their thousands annually in this country.
Stigma and discrimination
“Evidence shows that HIV-related stigma and discrimination is one of the major factors accounting for these deaths. HIV stigma is phenomenally high in the country, largely because of misconceptions and fear of the unknown.
“Such a high level of HIV stigma is a negative force that drives people away from accessing healthcare services, including HIV prevention methods, testing and counselling services, life-anti-retroviral treatment and staying in care,” he said.
Stigma and discrimination, according to the President, would not go away unless, “as a people, we stand in unity and actively work together to eliminate the ignorance, negative socio-cultural practices, beliefs and attitudes that fuel it”.
He said the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) would, in collaboration with UNAIDS, come up with new prevention campaigns which would leverage the gravitas and clout of prominent Ghanaians to advance the prevention agenda.
The Chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siriboe, who chaired the function, said the goal to end AIDS was attainable, but achieving it would require a more result-oriented approach.
Role of traditional rulers
The acting Director-General of the GAC, Dr Mokowa Blay Adu Gyamfi, for her part, called on chiefs to use their influence to encourage and motivate their subjects to break the stronghold of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
Describing HIV as a development issue, he called on those in leadership positions to come together to respond quickly and decisively to improve on the strides made in the HIV/AIDS response.