A GNA Feature by Mildred Siabi-Mensah
Takoradi, Jan. 11, GNA –The once frightening HIV and AIDs epidemic which ravaged its victims beyond recognition and sent them to their early grave is no longer scary as it used to be especially with the emergence of the epidemic in the 1980s.
In those days, where there was no proper diagnosis, government policy and support structure both at home and hospitals affected, individuals were left to their fate and hundreds of people died painful deaths.
Thanks to research bodies including the World Health Organisation and the UNAIDS, lots of medical strives have been achieved in the fight against the epidemic with the introduction of antiretroviral (ART) and other prophylaxis which help in managing the disease condition, avoid spread and new infections.
The UNAIDS estimates that expanding ART to all people living with the HIV and expanding prevention choices could help avert 21 million AIDs related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
Meanwhile, the WHO recommended a “zero drug stock-outs” in 37 fast track countries including; Ghana where the disease continued to be a major public health issue.
In Ghana, the HIV fact sheet 2016 by the Ghana AIDS Commission estimated annual deaths of 15, 116 for people around 15 years and above 83 per cent and 2, 531 for children from 0-14 accounting for 17 per cent.
In the interim, an estimated ART therapy coverage for adults was 37 per cent and children 0-14 living with HIV 15 per cent with estimated national prevalence at 1.6 per cent.
This is why it is critical to ensure an uninterrupted access to life-long treatment, continuous supply, availability and accessibility of HIV and AIDS commodities as one key strategy to achieve the fast track target of 90-90-90 by 2020 target to help end the AIDs epidemic.
By 2020, 90 per cent of all persons living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent who know their status will receive sustained ART therapy and 90 percent on ART therapy will receive suppressed viral load.
Ms. Cecilia Oduro, Executive Director of Life Relief Foundation, a NGO into HIV and AIDs recently said, “IT will be impossible to end the epidemic without bringing HIV treatment to all who need it”.
Giving a national estimates on new infections in 2016 she revealed that 293,804 people were living with HIV while new infections stand at 20,418.
In the Western Region, HIV prevalence has been erratic over the years, while it was 3.2 percent in 2007, the region recorded 2.9 in 2008, with 3.1 in 2009, whiles 2010 recorded 2.5 the year 2011 saw 1.9 percent, with 2014 reporting 2.4 percent with 2015 recording 2.0 percent and 2.5 in 2016.
The number of HIV positive clients were 2, 026 in 2014. With 2, 106 recorded in 2015 and 4779 in 2016 with those receiving clinical care within the same period were 1844, in 2014, with 1484 in the year 2015 and 1, 699 in 2016.
Meanwhile, those on ARVs stood at 1172, in 2014 and 1358 in 2015 and 1577 in 2016 within the year frame.
“This is why I believe strengthening the availability and accessibility of HIV commodities in the country and the Western Region in particular aside the treat all policy was critical, we need the drugs and a coordinated effort to stemming the tide of this public health and socio-economic challenge.”
The Life Relief Foundation, through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief (PEPFAR) expressing concern about ARVs and HIV commodities shortage and advocating the need to revamp supply and other support systems to suppressing the disease.
The PEPFAR has saved and improved millions of lives, accelerating progress toward controlling and ultimately ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat.
To this wise, a Civil Society Advocacy team has been formed to agitate for full governmental support, education and behavior change, proper integration of community and clinical services, review most of the policies and ensure proper data collection in the fight to ending the disease by 2030.
The counterpart funding from Ghana government according to the Team was deeply inadequate which continued to affect commodity supplies to centres responsible for persons living with the epidemic.
Another critical issue expressed by NAP+ Western Regional Chairman, Mr. Joseph Thompson was the frequent changes in combinations for persons with the conditions with its associated chain reactions on its victims.
He prayed that state commitment to the fight would be renewed with the supply of appropriate and continued ART therapy and prophylaxis to guarantee uninterrupted access to life-long treatment.
It is possible to have HIV/AIDS free generation when there is assured and uninterrupted access to life-long treatment through the availability and accessibility of HIV commodities to end AIDS epidemic by 2030.