The Ghana AIDS Commission intends to halt the incidence of new cases of HIV and AIDS infections by the end of 2015 as part of efforts to reduce the spread of the disease.
The move, which has an ultimate aim of achieving zero new infections, is under the revised national HIV and AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) policy which was made public last Tuesday.
At a national dissemination programme for the new HIV and AIDS, STI policy in Accra, the acting Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Mr Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, noted, in a statement presented on his behalf, that in 2011 an estimated 12,077 new infection cases were recorded.
The number included 1,707 infections in children. In the same year, an estimated 225,478 people were living with HIV in Ghana and only 65,087 of them were on treatment.
However, Mr Ohene-Adjei pointed out that the national adult HIV prevalence rate has currently stabilised at 1.5 per cent, a reduction from 22.7 per cent in 2005.
He said to achieve the zero infection rates, the commission was determined to eliminate mother–to-child transmission of HIV, address stigmatisation and discrimination and intensify education on the pandemic.
In addition to preventing further HIV and AIDS transmission, he said, it would be important to provide treatment to infected persons, offer care and support for people living with the disease.
Enumerating the challenges of the commission, he mentioned lack of sustainable funding, shortage of anti retroviral drugs, test kits and logistics, low comprehensive knowledge on HIV among the public, inadequate human resources and infrastructure, as well as limited access to services for, especially, key and vulnerable populations, among others.
Provisions of new policy
The new policy advocates an HIV and AIDS prevention law and information to the public about their health rights and also supports a conducive legal framework for political, economic, social and cultural response to the pandemic.
It also outlines guidelines on HIV prevention, treatment and care, community and health systems, human rights, legal and ethical issues.
Why the revision
A member of the Ghana AIDS Commission Steering Committee, Professor Emeritus Daasebre Oti Boateng, noted, in an address, that it had become necessary to revise the old policy which was developed in 2004, following the rapid scientific changes over the years.
He said the development of the new policy took one and half years, and the “policy looks very much into the future of HIV nationally and globally and provided guidelines on some issues which may be considered controversial by some.”
If implemented effectively, he said the new policy would help to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS, STI related deaths in the country.
The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Julius Debrah, noted that the fight against the epidemic could not be tackled by one institution and, therefore, required a multi-sectoral approach.
“The government is playing its role of providing the necessary funding but curbing the menace is not the responsibility of one institution such as the Ghana AIDS Commission. Individuals would have to change their lifestyles by adjusting to good lifestyles.”