The issue of condom distribution to adolescents has been under the microscope for some time now.
Statistics from the 2017 HIV Sentinel Survey (HSS) and Estimates Report, jointly released by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NACP), Ghana’s HIV prevalence among pregnant women currently stands at 2.1%
About 18, 711 samples were collected nationwide for the report and drawn from 40 sentinel sites strategically located at 17 rural sites, 23 urban sites and 69 antenatal clinics within a period of four months spanning September to December 2017.
According to the report, the estimated prevalence among adults stands at 1.67%
The report found out that the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, attending the antenatal clinic in the country is on a downward trend.
A linear trend analysis confirmed a declining epidemic since the year 2000, placing the median prevalence for 2017 at 2.1%.
The same cannot, however, be said of the young population – those aged between 15 and 24.
The prevalence among them – the proxy for new infections, rose to 1.5 percent last year, from 1.1 percent in 2016, something which calls for urgent action by all stakeholders to protect this productive group from getting the infection.
Dr. Stephen Ayisi-Addo, the Programme Manager, NACP, during this year’s week-long annual National HIV and AIDS research conference held in Accra in May said: “surveillance on HIV forms a critical component in the national response to the epidemic.”
Most of the girls in this group are found in the Senior High Schools.
Unfortunately, the policy on condom distribution to students at the second cycle institutions does not allow for open distribution.
Golda Asante is a Technical Coordinator with the Ghana AIDS Commission and tells Ghana Health News “we have been going to schools, we don’t distribute condoms, but students come to us for condoms”
She went on to state that, as a counselor, when a student comes to ask for condoms, “you are a service provider, you provide counseling and provide the services”
On the condom distribution policy, she responded, that “it is indeed time, and we are advocating,” adding, “now that we are still developing our HIV and AIDS policy, this is the time to look at condom as a policy, because the youth are sexually active”
Golda was speaking to Ghana Health News at Mamfe Methodist Senior High School where 900 girls accessed HIV counseling and testing services.
It can be recalled that September last year, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwabre East Constituency in the Ashanti Region, Francisca Oteng Mensah, began advocating for the introduction of orthodox pregnancy prevention measures to deal with the increasing rate of teenage pregnancy in the country.
According to Francisca Oteng Mensah, Ghana’s youngest legislator who was elected in 2016, this will ensure that teenage girls, who often bear the brunt, do not dropout of school because of unwanted pregnancies.
Even though condom distribution cannot be done openly on Senior High campuses, students approach service providers to request for them during such outreach programs.
This writer spotted and interacted with students who were seen reading the catalogue on usage of the female condom. Click to listen to Golda.