Lifestyle: Ghana introduces ‘Test and Treat’ policy to combat HIV
Ghana is now implementing the test and treat policy which is aimed at testing and treating persons diagnosed with HIV instantly at the health facility to ensure that all HIV persons are enrolled unto the antiretroviral medication treatment.
The test and treat policy that became operational in 2017 would also help bridge the gap of missing people who test for HIV positive at health facilities and centres but refuse to go back for follow-ups, and to start treatment immediately.
The test and treat policy which also served as a guideline was to help officials to enrol people quickly onto the antiretroviral treatment.
Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) officials said that waiting period before putting on medication gave room for some persons diagnosed with the virus to either escape the treatment or go hiding and only come back with serious implications.
The test and treat programme is said to help prevent new further infections and spread of the virus thereby saving lives of people.
In the case of pregnant women, the test and treat programme would help reduce the rate of infection to the unborn baby.
Dr Naa Ashley Vanderpuje, Chief Executive Officer of the West African AIDS Foundation who announced this at a day’s media training workshop in Accra, said the test and treat policy was being enrolled in all health facilities across the country.
The GAC in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association, organised the training workshop on “HIV and Its related Issues” for health reporters within the Greater Accra Region.
Dr Vanderpuje said there was still no cure for AIDS, but there was treatment available for every person diagnosed with the virus, saying, “even though these days people think HIV is gone-HIV is not gone, HIV is still there, and we are seeing it amongst pregnant women and it’s amazing the number of pregnant women who are still tested positive on a daily basis in the country”.
She reminded the people that HIV was still a big issue in Ghana because new infections were being recorded every day, especially among pregnant women, female sex workers, men sleeping with men, all who stood at a higher rate of transmitting HIV infections, “so the prevalence among these groups are much higher than our national prevalence of 1.61 percent”.
She said 20,000 new infections were recorded among pregnant women every year while the total new infections increased by 21 percent across all ages in 2016.
Dr Vanderpuje noted that among persons aged 15 to 24 years, new HIV infection increased by 45 percent in 2016, and that meant that people were not protecting themselves against the Virus.
She said the 90-90-90 campaign being implemented currently in Ghana was to ensure that 90 percent of all people living with HIV would know their status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV infection would receive sustained antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy would have viral suppression by 2020.
She, therefore, urged the media to help raise campaign on all the measures being rolled out by the GAC and its partners while the populace embrace and patronise various programmes to help end the epidemic.
“The Media has a crucial role to play to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2030 but first support us in fast-tracking our implementation of the Global 90-90-90 campaign by giving HIV and AIDS prominent news coverage; using your reach and influence to give people the information they need to protect themselves and those they love”.
Mr Kyeremah Atuahene, Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of GAC, said the Commission see the media as a strong partner in helping to break the myths concerning HIV and mobilising society to fight the HIV epidemic, which was still spreading fast among the youth.
Ms Angela Trenton Mbonde, Country Director of UNAIDS, said persons living with HIV remained critical parts of the society and as they stayed religiously to their treatment, they would continue to contribute to developing society.
She reiterated the need for the media to help combat the epidemic from Ghana.