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About 3,200 new HIV infections were recorded among infants and children across the country in 2017, the Ghana AIDS Commission has disclosed.
Of nearly 1,160,000 expected pregnancies in that year, 71 per cent of pregnant women tested for HIV out of which only 67 per cent received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child-transmission.
“This means as much as 29 per cent of pregnant women missed the opportunity to test to know their HIV status and 33 per cent of pregnant women needing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment never had the opportunity to receive treatment,” the acting Director-General of the Commission, Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene said.
Mr Kyeremeh painted the worrying picture in Accra yesterday during the launch of the “Free-to-Shine Campaign” by First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
The campaign seeks to increase advocacy, foster stronger partnership and mobilise resources towards the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Mr Kyeremeh expressed the hope that the campaign would be a game changer in the current status quo, as Ghana as far back as 2012, had been tipped to be the first country on the African continent to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
“We need to address all the bottlenecks associated with service delivery and create the enabling environment within the health sector that would bring about universal coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
When pregnant women do not get the opportunity to test for HIV and those testing positive are not placed on anti-retroviral treatment, the direct effect will be HIV infections in children born to these mothers but if we all put our minds to it and work together, this campaign will serve as a game changer of the situation,” he stated.
The Director General commended the First Lady for taking up the campaign to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the virus saying, “we have a golden opportunity now to mobilise and deploy technical and financial resources to make elimination of mother to child transmission a reality in Ghana.”
Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Gloria Quansah-Asare, revealed that females formed 80 per cent of almost 1.7 million HIV tests conducted last year.
She, however, noted that despite significant inroads made by the service in providing antiretroviral drugs as well as ensuring that HIV exposed infants were regularly screened, “we cannot rest on our oars at all until every HIV positive mother is diagnosed early and put on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for life to prevent transmission of the virus to the next generation.”
Dr Quansah-Asare pointed out measures put in place by the GHS as building healthcare workers capacity, integration of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services into mother and child care units as well as create adolescent health facilities where integrated adolescent-focused services are provided for HIV positive adolescents.
“We will continue to intensify these efforts in 2019 and strive to accelerate towards the 90-90-90 targets to have an HIV free generation,” she pledged.
Meanwhile, the First Lady, as part of the launch unveiled a plaque designed on the ideals of the campaign and handed it to the Ledzokuku Krowor Municipal Assembly (LEKMA) Hospital where the ceremony took place.
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