Mr Hector Sucilla Perez, the UNAIDS Country Director, has called on Ghana to ensure adequate technical support to civil society organisations (CSOs) to disseminate strategic information, as the game changer in the national HIV response.
He said strategic information is the foundation of the development of national HIV policies, plans, strategies, and programmes which unite diverse stakeholders around a set of agreed goals, targets, and strategic directions.
Mr Perez made the call at the opening of a three-day training workshop on the Integrated Biological Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBSS) to empower CSOs to support HIV response in the country
The training was organised by the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) in collaboration with the Civil Society Institute for Health West and Central Africa (CSIH WCA) on the theme, "Role of CSOs in Integrated Biological Behavioral Surveillance (IBBSS)".
It is aimed at building the capacity of CSOs on the IBBSS to be able to use the data for proper planning and advocacy.
IBBSS is a community-based systematic survey designed to assess risk behaviors and the prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among the most-at-risk populations, to improve tracking of the HIV epidemic and program planning
The workshop, with support from UNAIDS, seeks to empower activists through strengthening their advocacy, influencing, and campaigning skills to support HIV response by using evidence and strategic information for action and change.
The Country Director said empowerment of CSOs and communities through this kind of initiative enhances the coordination, accountability, and coherence of efforts in the national HIV response. He said CSO partners and communities of persons affected by the epidemic must understand and use strategic information to ensure that the AIDS response was as focused and effective as possible
"Our national response to the HIV epidemic must always consider the "Know your epidemic, know your response" approach"I am confident that the results of this effort will provide critical knowledge and tools to CSOs, communities, and activists to enhance their work on campaigning and advocacy for HIV response," Mr Perez started.
He said even though Ghana was making progress in many indicators as many other countries, there was the need to accelerate efforts at the country level towards the attainment of the 2030 target.
Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Programme Manager for the National AIDS/STI Control Programme, and Consultant of the training said. the last IBBSS conducted in 2019 revealed that 18.1 per cent of the HIV prevalence was amongst men who have sex with men compared to the population prevalence at workplaces.
"It has been a while since then, so we need to repeat it to know whether all the interventions crafted needed to be expanded upon," he added
Dr Ayisi Addo said last year the National AIDS/STI Control Programmme in collaboration with the School of Public Health University of Ghana, initiated an IBBSS for key populations and data had been collected
"In a few days, the results of the findings will be made public, hence the training to build the capacity of CSOs to enable them to understand the value of the data to effectively react and communicate to others to inform the set of programmes they craft.
All of this is to help achieve the 95-95-95 target and end HIV epidemic control by 2030, Dr Ayisi said
The target aims to diagnose 95 per cent of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 95 per cent of those diagnosedand achieve viral suppression for 95 per cent of those treated by 2030.
Mr Ernest Ortsin, the President of GHANET, urged participants to take the training seriously to enable them to come up strong advocacy strategy when the IBBSS data was finally made public.
Mr Evans Adofo, the Director of SALL-Liberia and Member of CSIH WCAcalled on countries in the region especially Ghana to enhance strategies to ensure new HIV infections were reduced.