Traditional leaders urged to play advocacy roles in ending HIV and AIDS
Dr Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyamfi, Director-General of Ghana AIDS Commission, (GAC) has called on traditional leaders to play more advocacy roles in the nation’s quest to end AIDS as a public health threat by the year 2030.
She said for Ghana to achieve the goal of ending AIDS by 2030, reduce mother-to-child transmission and also reduce new infections, there was the need for traditional leaders to demonstrate more commitment towards the national HIV and AIDS response.
She made the call at an advocacy meeting organised by the Commission in collaboration with UNDP and UNAIDS through the Joint UN Team on AIDS for Greater Accra Traditional Leaders in Accra.
The meeting was to, among other things, provide the chiefs and queen mothers’ updates on the national response to HIV and solicit their support in the nation’s quest to end AIDS as a public health threat by the year 2030.
She said the Commission intended to strengthen partnership with chiefs and queen mothers to influence and promote behaviour change through HIV education on modes of transmission and also encourage them to support the Commission’s anti-stigma reduction programmes in their communities.
Dr Adu-Gyamfi said over the years, the Ghana AIDS Commission had involved traditional leaders in the national HIV and AIDS response on areas such as mitigating the economic and socio-cultural impact of HIV on persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
“It is the anticipation of the GAC and our partners that, through our collaboration with traditional leaders, we will leverage on your influence to address certain cultural practices and beliefs that undermine the progress we are making on HIV.”
She commended the chiefs and queen mothers for their continued support towards orphans and vulnerable children in their communities and also thanked them for allowing GAC to use their platforms to provide comprehensive education on prevention and behaviour change communication towards reducing new infections among the general population especially the youth and women.
The Director-General said the Commission was working to improve information and education in order to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.
She urged the chiefs and queen mothers to mobilise their communities to access HTS and more importantly encourage pregnant women not to stay in prayer camps but access antenatal services in order to completely eliminate mother to Child transmission of HIV and end AIDS, and encouraged all to whip up interest of community members to test to know their HIV status and avail themselves for treatment if tested positive.
Ms. Angela Trenton-Mbonde, UNAIDS Country Director, said AIDS was a global health issue taking the lives of affected persons.
She said while in Ghana, AIDS was not as visible as it was in other countries; it was still an issue of concern.
She said the goal of UNAIDS now, is to have 90 per cent of affected people living, and to achieve this goal, it was important to engage traditional leaders in local communities to partner the GAC and USAID.
“As traditional leaders, you have a great influence on the people in your communities. You play an important role in the lives of the people, you lead by making decisions that is in the best interest of your community. Your work is unending but it is worth it because you make a positive impact in the lives of others,” she said.
To this end, Ms. Trenton-Mbonde said it was important to equip the traditional leaders with information, skills and training.
She noted that the stigma around HIV and AIDS caused people to hide and to not get treated, by doing so, these people can infect others.
“It is important that people get tested, know their status, and get treated to stop HIV from spreading. If people do not see that it is okay to know their status and to get treated, it will result in lives being lost in your communities. As a leader, you serve as a great influence to change the mind set of people to save your community.”
She urged them to generate conversation about HIV and AIDS in their communities to educate people and to address their misconceptions and beliefs.
Ghana’s HIV prevalence among pregnant women attending antenatal clinic experienced a decline from 2.4 percent in 2016 to 2.1 percent in 2017 whereas prevalence among young population (15-24 years) increased from 1.1 percent to 1.5 percent in 2017.