Ghanaian men are being encouraged to support and accompany their pregnant wives and partners to antenatal clinics to help in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The practice of males accompanying their pregnant partners to antenatal visits is rare in Ghana. But health experts say men accompanying and supporting their partners during antenatal will help accelerate the national goal of attaining virtual elimination of HIV transmission from mothers to their babies.
A Director of the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) Mr Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, who made the call praised the few Ghanaian men who have accompany their partners to hospitals for antenatal care, noting the pregnancy period is the best time that women need the care of their partners.
This was when he joined four GAC ambassadors living with HIV to interact with new mothers at the Maamobi General Hospital in Accra, as part of Heart2Heart/Antenatal Clinic Caravan Campaign.
The campaign by the GAC seeks to reach out to pregnant and lactating women with information on HIV, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and treatment services.
Mr Ohene-Adjei advised men to encourage their partners not to shy away from antenatal HIV testing and counselling services, and also support them should they test positive for HIV.
This, he said, will help in safeguarding the unborn children from contracting the HIV virus.
Health Experts argue that HIV partner- support encourages antiretroviral treatment adherence, and eliminates self-stigma among pregnant women leading to early initiation of treatment and positive lifestyles that protect unborn children from HIV-infection.
Unsupportive partners on the other hand breed the fear of rejection, serving as barriers to anti-retroviral care.
Male partner attendance at antenatal care visits is low globally, with the UNAIDS pushing for the support and involvement of men in prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes.
The Maamobi General Hospital is one of the many health facilities the Heart-to-Heart Ambassadors are visiting as part of the campaign.
The H2H Caravan has so far made stops at the Ridge Hospital, La General Hospital, LEKMA Hospital, and the Tema General Hospital and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
Other places include: the Police Hospital, Usher Clinic and the Maamobi General Hospital, all in the Greater Accra Region.
The objective of the tour is to step up the HIV anti-stigma & discrimination campaign, and raise awareness on HIV treatment services among pregnant women.
It is also to encourage HIV couple-testing, counselling and disclosure as well as PMTCT and Early Infant Diagnosis.