The 2019 World AIDS Day has been launched in Accra with a call on communities to identify and play their roles in the national HIV and AIDS response effectively. Areas where communities could assert their influence include ensuring increased access and easy availability of quality medical care to populations at risk or already infected with HIV, ensuring dissemination of HIV related facts and promoting education on risk reduction behaviours.
At the launch of World AIDS Day on Friday, 1st November 2019, Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, the Acting Director General of GAC, said Ghana had the capacity to end the epidemic in line with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Treatment Target, but complacency was slowing down the process. He called on the media as a partner, to play its role to help sustain the gains made in the HIV and AIDS response. He asked the media to help improve on resource mobilization and low publicity, which affected sustainability of HIV programmes, service delivery and advocacy.
The global theme for 2019 World AIDS Day is Communities make the difference. Ghana has chosen Communities make the difference – Help end AIDS as the national theme for this year’s commemoration. The day was instituted by the United Nations to inspire global solidarity for persons infected and affected by HIV and as well as commemorate those who have lost their lives to the epidemic.
Mr Atuahene said 2020 is a very important year for the HIV advocacy adding that “2020 is the milestone of the 90-90-90 fast track targets. It also marks the end of the current national HIV and AIDS strategic plan…”
“The 2020 milestone places greater responsibility on us to accelerate implementation while pragmatically addressing programme bottlenecks in order to achieve the 90-90-90 targets”.
He said in collaboration with it partners, the Commission had kick-started HIV joint review programmes to generate data and information to guide the determination of priorities for the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan.
The data would serve as the basis of the Global Fund Grant allocation that would be due in May 2020.
Mr Atuahene appealed to the public to get tested and to prioritise good practices which would keep their status negative, while urging those on antiretroviral drugs to continue to stay on them to ensure vital suppression. He reiterated that HIV testing and anti-retroviral medicines were free and so people should patronise these services to stay alive for a long time. There are over 3,700 facilities across the country offering free HIV testing services to help people to know their status, he added.
He also called for increased efforts to end the stigmatisation of persons living with the condition to help achieve the 90-90-90 agenda.
Mr. Atuahene called on civil society organisations, persons living with HIV and AIDs, and other communities to join in the activities of the celebrations.
Ms Angela Trenton-Mbonde, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, said the response to the epidemic had seen a lot of progress but much more needed to be done to meet the needs of the 27.9 million people living with HIV with 63 per cent on anti-retroviral treatment.
There were 1.7 million new infections in 2018, 77,000 AIDS related deaths and 32 million deaths globally since the start of the epidemic, she noted.
She urged communities to continue to play a central role in the AIDS response at the local, national, international levels, for greater achievements.
Dr Kwadwo Appiah-Kubi, Member of the GAC Governing Board and MP for Atwima Kwanwoma, gave the assurance that government is commitment towards attaining the 90-90-90 targets.
The MP said in line with this vision, government is using a number of innovative approaches in accelerating the implementation of the national response.
“Already, we have adopted the “Treat All” policy, and anyone who tests positive for HIV within our borders is offered free treatment without reference to their CD4 count. This has contributed to increased enrolment of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) onto treatment,” he mentioned.
The Member of Parliament further revealed that there are more than 150,000 people in the country living with HIV but are yet to be identified and enrolled.
He noted that to facilitate a speedy identification of such individuals, there is an on-going effort through the ‘Know Your Status Campaign’ to increase uptake of HIV testing.
Dr. Appiah-Kubi further explained that another boost to the national response is the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV preventive measure.
He noted that there is an on-going engagement to expand its implementation to high risk populations and discordant couples to augment existing protective methods to further reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV.
Mrs Linda Asante-Adjei, the Vice President of the Ghana Journalists Association, pledged the media’s readiness in partnering stakeholders in the national HIV and AIDS response.
The launch of World AIDS Day kick-starts a month-long series of activities which climaxes on 1st December with a national durbar at the fore-court of the International Trade Fair Centre, La, Accra.
The activities include media engagements, a public lecture, a national thanksgiving Christian service and a Muslim service, among others.
Launch of Revised HIV and AIDS Policy
The 2019 World AIDS Day launch was also used to launch a revised national HIV and AIDS Policy 2019. It is a revised version of existing policies developed in 2013. The theme for the 2019version is: Universal Access to HIV prevention, Treatment and Care Services towards ending AIDS as a Public Health Threat.
The policy provides an overarching direction for Ghana in its effort to deliver the 90-90-90 treatment targets by 2020, and ultimately, SDG 3, which calls for an end to the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The guiding principles are for:
• Greater involvement of PLHIV
• Alignment with global concepts and frameworks
• Decentralized, multi-sector and multi-disciplinary planning and execution
• Partnership and collaboration with public, private, local and international institutions
• Empower the population to prevent new HIV infections
• Ensure the availability and accessibility to prevention, treatment, care and support services
• Mitigate the social and economic effect of HIV on persons affected with and living with HIV
• Ensure the availability of adequate funding to execute the policy strategies
Policies on key issues in the document include age of consent for testing, confidentiality, herbalists and traditional healers, pre-exposure prophylaxis and HIV self-testing.
The reconstructed GAC website was also launched. It can be accessed on www.ghanaids.gov.gh
The Ghana AIDS Commission is a supra-ministerial and multi-sectoral body established under the Chairmanship of H. E. the President of the Republic of Ghana by Act 2016, Act 938 of Parliament. The objective of the Commission is to formulate policy on the HIV and AIDS epidemic and...find out more