PEPFAR still committed to a positive response to HIV and AIDS in Ghana. US Amb. to Ghana. The United States government has made its intentions clear that it is still committed to Ghan’s continuous positive response to the HIV epidemic. Ghana adopted the UNAIDS goal named the Agenda 90-90-90 which unfortunately was missed.
In the bid to ambitiously curb the spread of the virus and to end AIDS by the year 2030, the Ghana AIDS Commission has adopted the ambitious 95-95-95. It is to help achieve this ambitious goal that the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has renewed its commitment to Ghana’s response to the spread of HIV.
PEPFAR has saved a total of 18 million lives in more than 50 countries within the past 17 years, and Ghana is one of the beneficiaries of her continuous support in the area of HIV. PEPFAR’s work encapsulates reduction of new infections, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and then making progress towards the control of the spread of HIV through various interventions.
During her closing remarks at the end of a 7-week virtual media training, the U.S Ambassador to Ghana Her Excellency, Stephanie S. Sullivan stressed the need for “continuous partnership with the government, health authorities, international institutions and the media to promote advocacy, anti-stigmatization and most importantly test and treatment for persons living with HIV (PLHIV)”.
According to the Ambassador, “The US Government is delighted to offer initiatives such as this workshop because as we’ve seen in the past 7 weeks, they are effective.”
She was optimistic about Ghana’s ability to achieve the UNAIDS goal of “Test and Treat”, “95-95-95 by 2030” and “Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)” adding that this would be through “shared responsibility, sense of purpose and dedication”
“Here in Ghana, I’m confident we can work together towards achieving the UNAIDS’ FastTrack 95-95-95 goal, which aims for: 95% of the people living with HIV to know their positive status; 95% of those who test positive to be on sustained treatment; and 95% of those on treatment to have suppressed their viral load to the point where they cannot transmit it to anybody else.”
Recalling the success story in the Western region after the launch of a joint strategy in October 2019, which is aimed at achieving HIV epidemic control, she said, “I am pleased to report that since PEPFAR’s pivot to focus on achieving epidemic control in the Western Region, more than 4,500 new positive cases have been identified, 95 per cent of people who newly tested positive were linked to treatment, and 73 per cent of those on treatment had a suppressed viral load, with 60 per cent of clients receiving the more convenient, multi-month dispensing of their anti-retroviral treatment, or MMD. With the introduction of the new HIV treatment known as TLD, which I like to refer to as The Life Drugs – TLD, we helped transition over 40 per cent of eligible clients to this treatment and are striving to reach 100 per cent by October this year.”
Taking a jive at the effects of COVD19 on PLHIV, she expressed concern about how PLHIV aren’t able to access treatment as a result of the pandemic, but gave an assurance that “Using a whole of government approach, the United States is working together with our Government of Ghana partners to mitigate this challenge, and to scale up the effective interventions and best practices implemented in the Western Region to other regions.”
She added, “I applaud the Government of Ghana’s achievements to date, with the support of PEPFAR and in close collaboration with the Global Fund and UNAIDS. However, we are not yet done. We cannot rest on our oars! The U.S. Government remains deeply committed to expanding key populations’ access to quality, stigma-free, lifesaving HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services. And with your help, through informed and informative media coverage, we can and will end stigma and discrimination and also reach epidemic control.”
Per the 2019 Sentinel Survey, there are currently approximately 342,307 people living with HIV in Ghana of which 316,352 are adults and the remaining 25,955 are children
Also, 8,275 deaths were averted with the intervention of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) in 2019 and a projected 11,733 deaths are expected to be averted in the year 2020.
The Ghana AIDS Commission aims at reducing AIDS-related deaths and new infections. With the adoption of Agenda 95-95-95, PEPFAR aims at continuing to support interventions that will culminate in the achievement of the goal so as to end new infections.
To the 45 journalists who took part in the training session, Ambassador Sullivan urged them to apply and share the knowledge acquired through the “writing of stories of hope, treatment and care for PLHIV”
The virtual training was done in partnership with Media HealthLink, the African Centre for Development Reporting, Ghana Journalists Association, the Ghana AIDS Commission, the National AIDS Control Program with support from the U.S Embassy, Ghana.