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HomeHealthMore persons with HIV living healthily, longer — GHS

More persons with HIV living healthily, longer — GHS

More Ghanaians, living with HIV are now enjoying healthier lives and living longer.

Also, the rate of new HIV infections and HIV-related mortality rates is declining.

The Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, who disclosed this, attributed these achievements to the combination of anti-retrovirals (ARV) with comprehensive prevention strategies.

“ARVs have transformed the lives of people living with HIV (PLHIV), offering hope, health and longevity.

As we move forward, let us continue to address the challenges that lie ahead, ensuring accessibility, sustainability and efficacy of our ARV programmes,” he said.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye was speaking at the media launch of 20 years of HIV anti-retroviral treatment (ART) therapy in Ghana held in Accra on Wednesday.

ART is a combination of anti-retroviral drugs that effectively suppresses the replication of HIV in the body.

It delays the progression of the disease and allows PLHIV to live healthier, longer lives.

ART does not only improve the quality of life for individuals, but it also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

In March 1986, Ghana diagnosed its first AIDS case and by May 1986, 26 cases had been identified. 

Before the initiation of highly active ART in December 2003, care for PLHIV was focused on managing opportunistic infections and providing psychosocial support.

This resulted in HIV infection being seen as a death sentence, but ART revolutionised the treatment and management of the virus, providing hope, extending lives and improving the quality of life for those living with the disease.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said despite the achievements made with ART, challenges remained that needed to be addressed.

He said stigma and discrimination towards PLHIV persisted and acted as formidable barriers to testing, treatment and adherence to ARV.

To address this, he said there was the need to intensify efforts to educate and sensitise communities and dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV and ARV.

“We must also strengthen our healthcare infrastructure, ensuring that healthcare professionals are trained and equipped to effectively manage HIV and provide continuous care,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Director -General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), the Director of Technical Services of GAC, Dr. Fred Nana Poku said one of the key things planned for the near future was the production of ARVs in the country, explaining that this would address the numerous challenges they faced with regard to the logistic management of ARVs and their shortages in the country.

Additionally, he said, they were looking at how to get infants diagnosed, placed and remained on HIV treatment.

The UNAIDS Country Director to Ghana, Hector Sucilla Perez, lauded the significant strides made by Ghana over the past two decades in expanding access to life-saving ART for PLHIV.

He said despite the progress, access to HIV testing and ART treatment remained uneven across different regions of the country, pointing out that 28 of every 100 Ghanaians, living with HIV were not aware of their status while 37 of the same number of Ghanaians, living with HIV, were not having access to ART, among many other challenges.

He said it was imperative that the country adapted and innovated in the face of the challenges, ensuring that essential services and support for HIV were not compromised.

The Country Director of PEPFAR/Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Tony Ao, said globally, PEPFAR had saved over 21 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infection and helped over a dozen countries, including Ghana, to control their HIV epidemic.

ART @ 20

The Director, Public Health Division of the GHS, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, outlined the programme of activities for the year-long celebration to include tour of ART sites and a commemoration a project; special time with National Association of People who are HIV positive (NAP+); national stakeholder dialogue on ART commodity security; research conference and a durbar and awards night to honour heroes and heroines in the fight against HIV.