The 2018 World AIDS Day has been launched in Accra with a call on the citizens to know their HIV status and be able to make informed choices that will help Ghana achieve the 90-90-90 target.
Attaining the 90-90-90 target will also ensure that the country achieved the ultimate goal of ending AIDS by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The 90-90-90 target was set in 2014 under a joint UNAIDS programme on HIV and AIDS and its partners to help end the AIDS epidemic.
It is an ambitious treatment target aimed at diagnosing 90 per cent of all HIV-positive persons, provide antiretroviral therapy for 90 per cent of those diagnosed, and to achieve a viral suppression for 90 per cent of those treated by 2020.
In Ghana, about two per cent of the population is said to be living with HIV while many of the 98 per cent living without the disease is said to be unaware of their status. This is leading to an increase in new HIV infections with the country recording 19,101 new infections in 2017.
The 2017 Sentinel survey of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) also shows an increase of new infections among the young population from 1.1 per cent in 2016 to 1.5 per cent. There was also 70 per cent increase of recorded cases from 12,000 in 2016 to 20,148 in 2017, while over 15,000 lives were lost to the disease.
The global theme for the 2018 World AIDS Day, which is marked on December 1, every year, is: “Know your Status” while the national theme: is “Test, Treat to Suppress and Stop New Infections”.
The National Day Durbar would be observed in Ho in the Volta Region with other regional celebrations across the country. Mr Kyeremeh Attuahene, the Acting Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, said at the launch on Thursday that the 2017 new HIV infections were high despite efforts at implementing the national HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (2016-2020).
He said more work needed to be done “If we are to achieve the 90-90-90 targets. Today we are summoned to rejuvenate the ‘Know your Status’ campaign because infected persons who do not know their status had the potential to fuel new infections.
“Therefore, getting people to know their status is the important pathway to attaining the targets we have set for ourselves.” Mr Attuahene announced that as part of the month-long activities to mark the Day, there would be interactive sessions with religious leaders and a public lecture on the theme: “Socio-Cultural Perspective of HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care” as well as a Thanksgiving Service.
There would also be media activities and interventions aimed at engaging the public on the need to test for their status and prevent new infections. Madam Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of Sanitation and Water Resource, who doubles as Executive Oversight of the GAC, said the availability of antiretroviral treatment should propel all those who did not know their HIV status to test and get the needed help.
She said government would continue to invest in health, particularly in HIV and AIDs, in the face of dwindling donor support. She called on the private sector to partner government to invest more in the sector to ensure that the targets were attained in communities and in the country in general.
Madam Dapaah urged the media and other religious organisations to partner government to promote national response to the epidemic that had claimed more lives. She announced that stigmatising and discriminating against HIV and AIDS persons had now been criminalised under the new GAC ACT 2016 (ACT 938) and so it would be an offense for anyone to stigmatise them.
Mrs Linda Asante-Agyei, the Vice President of the Ghana Journalists Association, who spoke on the theme: “Achieving the 90-90-90-Treatment Targets by 2020 - The Role of the Media,” said there was the need for constant engagement with the media to educate them on the epidemic, especially on the 90-90-90 target.
She said some media personnel should also be identified by the Commission and make them ambassadors so they could push the message through their media channels.