HIV interventions neglect of Greater Accra accounts for high prevalence rate

Sat, 11 Jun 2016 Source: Hinneh, Samuel

The teeming complacency and neglect of the Greater Accra region with regard to HIV interventions has resulted in the region recording the highest HIV prevalence rate in Ghana, says Mr Emmanuel Ashong, the Programmes Manager of Curious Minds, an advocacy organisation.

The 2015 HIV survey by the National AIDS Control Programme (NACOP) shows that the Greater Accra region recorded the highest HIV prevalence rate by scoring 3.2 percent. This means, Greater Accra region has overtaken the Eastern region, a position the latter has occupied on consistent basis for several years.

Programme Manager of the NACOP, Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo attributes the development to urban growth and slums in the capital city.

“Whereas Eastern Region is declining, the Greater Accra prevalence has been increasing for two or three years. If you look at the trend analysis, the Greater Accra prevalence is almost a plateau compared to all the regions including Eastern Region which is on the decline. Eastern Region has the highest gradient of decline, now …There is a game change, we are transitioning to the highest prevalence in Greater Accra region,” he said.

The cross sectional survey recorded cases of HIV among pregnant women who attended antenatal services and among their partners.

"It is unfortunate that we have recorded high numbers in the greater Accra region. Indeed high numbers anywhere is not good, but when you look at the capital city, it is the one place where many people from different part of the country come to engage in business, education and other social activities,’’ Mr Ashong stated.

Mr Ashong blames national organisations, non-governmental organisations as well as civil society organisations working in HIV prevention, stressing: "The assumption has always been that Greater Accra does not have a problem and usually when there are HIV interventions we concentrate on other areas especially in the three northern regions."

"But we forget that even if Accra was not a problem two years ago, by the fact that we are neglecting the region for some time means that we would have a higher prevalence rate.

"This is because many people migrate to the region and so even if the region did not have a problem once people are migrating from other areas perceived to have high prevalence of HIV, then there would be an escalation in the city because that is the place of convergence for many people," he says.

Ghana’s Health Minister, Alex Segbefia says the United States of America has approved a global fund of US$25 million grant to facilitate Ghana’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

“My Ministry and indeed the government of Ghana is committed to ensuring that HIV/AIDS prevention and control remains a priority issue within these broad frameworks for incremental resource allocation despite the current economic challenge.

“To this extent, Ghana has adopted the NEW UN AIDS 1990 and the WHO Treat All Policy to ensure a fast track approach to ending the epidemic through accelerated ART enrolment with particular emphasis on paediatric care,” the Health Minister stated.

In February, Ghana’s President, John Dramani Mahama gave the assurance that African leaders would in the coming years focus on the total reduction of incidence of HIV and AIDS on the continent.

Launching the 7th African Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Accra, the President said the continent was already battling illiteracy and poverty and would therefore not allow the prevalence of the HIV and AIDS to gain centre-stage in their political progress.

Mr Ashong, whose organisation works in the area of HIV prevention particularly among Ghanaian youth underscores the need to tailor interventions to areas where there are specific needs in the country, particularly, Accra.

The Greater Accra region embraces all manner of migrants, there are also indigenes who are in hot spot areas like Jamestown, Teshie, etc, places along the coastal lines, he said.

"Sometimes because interventions are not available in these areas, there is a situation where many people have heard of HIV but do not have adequate knowledge-hearing of HIV is not enough, people need access to certain commodities, and services to prevent infections.

"Many young people are concerned about avoiding pregnancy through unprotected sex so even if they are using condom the real intent is to prevent pregnancy and not HIV or STI.

"It is one thing that we need to really focus on and ensure that the education goes down well. Also ensure that we have services are provided including HIV counselling, and testing going on so that people will really know that status.

"It is important to note that knowing one’s status is the first step towards prevention and so if you are infected you get treatment as early as possible and if not infected you begin a life that is more healthy.

Columnist: Hinneh, Samuel