Recent records shows that the rate of new HIV infections has dropped whiles the national prevalence rate stood at about two percent, Mrs Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of Aviation said Wednesday.
The Minister who represented President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the opening of National HIV and AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) said there was the need to sustain efforts to further reduce these figures to “Zero tolerance”.
The conference was on the theme “Ending AIDS- Rethinking Practices for Maximum Impact”.
The four-day Conference is the Fourth in the annual series, designed to stimulate critical thinking and decisions on strategic policies and programmes among key stakeholders, in order to address the serious bottlenecks facing the national HIV and AIDS response.
Mrs Dapaah, called for a united effort by all stakeholders in curbing new HIV infections adding that in order to achieve the global long-term goal to end AIDS by 2030, there was the need to be innovative, collaborative and pragmatic in the national response to HIV and AIDS.
She therefore encouraged all Ghanaians to get tested to know their status, saying with this knowledge, people who test negative can now live responsible lives, so that those who test positive can also be immediately enrolled unto the Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ARTs) to reduce their viral loads and prevent other opportunistic infections that may occur as a result of their compromised immune systems.
The Aviation minister also commended the Ghana AIDS Commission and its partners for hosting the NHARCON 2018 conference, saying the event was a reminder that the goal to end AIDS was attainable and achieving it would require a change from “a business as usual” to a more result-oriented approach, to achieve maximum results in the midst of scarce national resources.
She said the government has accepted the challenge of increasing its investment for HIV activities and was therefore spearheading the operationalisation of the National HIV and AIDS Fund, to mobilise more domestic resources to provide financial sustainability and stability for various programmes and activities of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and other partners.
Dr Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyamfi, the Acting Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, said Ghana cannot achieve the common vision of ending AIDS without concerted efforts with expertise from areas including academia, research, as well as the sustained support of the financial sectors, to make the country’s national HIV response a model for other countries to emulate.
She explained how the country joined the global community more than two years ago to adopt the UNAIDS fast-track targets through the establishment of the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (NSP) which span from 2016 to 2020, to help end the AIDS epidemic.
She said with this strategy, it was expected that by 2020. 90 per cent of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) would be diagnosed, while 90 per cent of those diagnosed would be on sustained anti-retroviral therapies, with 90 per cent viral suppression in persons receiving sustained ART.
She said these targets therefore commits all partners not only to work collectively in their commitment towards expanding access to diagnoses and treatment, but also to enhance the quality of care in terms of retention in case and viral suppression, which were key to optimal health outcomes in PLHIV.
Dr Adu-Gyamfi acknowledged the tremendous contributions of all partners especially, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has accounted for the significant progress towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets.
She however urged the government to accelerate efforts to mobilise enough funding to address the current challenges of limited human resources, equipment and logistics in the various health facilities to ensure that no one was left behind “if we must end the AIDS epidemic by 2030”.
Ms Angela Trenton-Mbonde, the Country Director of UNAIDS, also called for the active involvement of the youth, asking that they should be provided with sustained comprehensive sexuality education as well as family planning services as a key strategy for halting the spread of new HIV infections.
She noted that countries who fail to provide funding for HIV and AIDS responses were bound to pay dearly for the price in the future as a result of the negative effect on their populations.
Other speackers included Mr Robert P. Jackson, the US Ambassador to Ghana, and Mr Emmanuel Beluzebr Suurkure, the President of NAP+ Ghana, with Nana Otuo Siriboe II, the Omanhene of the Juaben Traditional area chairing the opening ceremony.