By: Ewoenam Kpodo & Rita Kafui Nedjoh | Voltaonlinegh.com |
The Acting Director General, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and a co-chair of the Eminent Group of Advocates for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene has emphasised that traditional and spiritual remedy for the cure of HIV and AIDS is not a 100 per cent cure for the epidemic.
According to him, claims that traditional and spiritual remedy offer a cure for the HIV epidemic is the cause of the drop in the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) advising that, “you can take herbal medicine and pray it works but never stop taking antiretroviral treatment because it helps to suppress and stop the spread of the disease.”
He was speaking at the National Durbar of the 30th World AIDS Day celebration on Saturday in Ho held on theme, “Know Your Status” with the national theme being “Test, Treat to Suppress and Stop New Infections”.
Mr Atuahene described the theme as apt, saying, “52 per cent of women and 72 per cent of men in Ghana have not tested for HIV. Not knowing your HIV status robs you of the ability to take control of your life.”
He disclosed that GAC in collaboration with stakeholders in health had begun processes to have relevant policies for the introduction of self-testing in conformity with international best practices and standards to enable the Commission meet the first UNAIDS 90 target by 2020.
He lamented the increasing trends in new infections among the youth as revealed by the 2017 National HIV and AIDS Report which suggested, “of 19,101 new HIV infections that occurred in Ghana, 29.1 per cent occurred among young people aged 12 to 24 years. More than two third of these newly infected youth were women.”
Mr Atuahene therefore called on the general public to work together to reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.
UNAIDS Country Director, Angela Trenton-Mbonde in her speech cited stigma and discrimination which prevented people from accessing HIV prevention and treatment services resulting in millions of AIDS-related deaths, as the greatest challenge to efforts to end the epidemic in Ghana.
She assured that as an organisation committed to achieving vision zero new infections, zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths, UNAIDS “will continue to provide high impact technical support to government institutions and civil society organisations to strengthen HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.”
She added that UNAIDS will further collaborate with other key stakeholders to “develop and implement a robust advocacy and communications programme” geared towards achieving 90-90-90 target of testing, treatment and suppressing rival load of HIV infections.
Charge D’Affaires at the US Embassy, Christopher J. Lamora in a short interview, said HIV epidemic currently has no cure and the best way to go is to get tested, be on antiretroviral treatment to suppress the viral load.
He assured that the Embassy through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will continue to commit fund to address high levels of stigma and discrimination which impede testing and achievement of the epidemic control in Ghana.
The durbar chaired by President of Volta House of Chiefs, Nana Soglo Alloh IV, was also attended by dignitaries including Cecilia Dapaah, Minister of Sanitation and Water Resource and having Executive Oversight of GAC, Deputy Minister of Health, Tina Mensah, Regional Minister, Dr Archibald Yao Letsa and Heart-to-Heart Ambassadors who all added their voices to the way forward to eliminating the epidemic.
World AIDS Day is marked every December 1 to raise awareness and to remember those who died as a result of the AIDS pandemic.