Pregnant women have been advised to check their HIV status in order to safeguard their unborn babies through treatment in the event that they test positive of the disease.
The ambassadors of Heart-to-Heart [H2] who gave the advise also urged the pregnant mothers not to despair and live in denial when they test positive of HIV since there is hope.
This was when they interacted with pregnant women at the Antenatal Unit of the Ghana Police Hospital in Accra, where they encouraged the pregnant mothers to avail themselves of HIV services.
The H2H Ambassadors are four persons living with HIV who have dedicated their lives to sharing their life stories to encourage a more tolerant attitude towards persons living with HIV.
It is estimated that there are about 20,000 babies living with HIV in Ghana despite many positives recorded in Ghana’s HIV response. HIV test is done twice during the pregnancy-on the first visit and at 34 weeks of the pregnancy.
This is to ensure that no HIV positive expectant mother is missed out on PMTCT of HIV services before delivery. With antiretroviral, an HIV positive mother’s chances of transferring the virus to her baby reduces to lower than five per cent as opposed to the about 40 % chance, if the woman is not on treatment.
The government as part of efforts to ensure that no child is born HIV positive, has made it possible for every pregnant woman who attends antenatal clinic at a public hospital gets to test to know her status.
The Ambassadors during the visit dispelled misconceptions that impede antenatal attendance and HIV treatment, sharing their experiences on HIV related stigma, benefits of early treatment and adherence.
They in turns, threw light on Antiretroviral drugs (ARV), and how it has contributed to the huge reductions in death rates and suffering among people living with HIV. A member of the team, Mrs Lydia Azumah stressed on how the consistent use of ARV decreases one’s chances of transferring the infection to another person.
Mrs Azumah charged the visiting mothers to adhere to the directives of health professionals anytime they visit. Another H2H Ambasordor, Mrs Gifty Torkrnu, also advised mothers living with HIV to desist from self-stigma, and open up to their partners.
This, she said, would help in educating their loved ones on the condition. “HIV positive pregnant woman may transmit the HIV to her unborn child during pregnancy, birth or breast feeding,” she explained.
A Reproductive and Child Health nurse at the hospital, Inspector Nicholina Kwashie said some pregnant women fail to report back when referred to the Antiretroviral Unit of the hospital.
She advised against such practices since it will not inure to the benefit of mothers and their unborn babies. Ghana has achieved 76% coverage of PMTCT services for pregnant women, with about 50% of all HIV positive mothers on treatment.
The H2H Ambassadors answered questions from the participants. The team is scheduled to visit several other ANC and ART facilities within the Greater Accra region. ACP Dr Otu, Nyarko, the Head, Public Health Department of the Hospital thanked the team for the visit, and called for more collaboration in the National response.
The Acting Director of Technical Services, Ghana AIDS Commission, Mr Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, joined the team to donate Information, Education and Communication (IE&C) materials to the hospital.