Ghana Has Made Strides In New HIV Infections - First Lady

Ghana has achieved the 50 per cent reduction in new HIV infections it embarked upon in the last five years, the First Lady Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama has said. The First Lady said the nation has succeeded in reducing the rate of new infections in children by 76 per cent from 2009 to 2012, stressing that 50 per cent of all HIV positive pregnant women are on effective treatment. �The country has witnessed a significant decline in AIDS-related deaths, stressing that the national prevalence has dropped from 3.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent over the decade among the youth, pregnant women and female sex workers,� she added. The First Lady made these disclosures in a speech read by Nana Oye-Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection on her behalf in Accra to mark World AIDS Day. December 1 is marked globally as World AIDS Day, to remember friends and family members who have died from the virus, as well as show compassion and support to people infected with the disease. The Day is being commemorated to rekindle the world�s commitment towards universal access to comprehensive HIV services. The global theme is: �Close the Gap,� which enjoins all to advocate and ensure that everybody have access to HIV prevention, treatment care and support services. The country�s sub-theme: �Ghana towards an HIV-free generation through PMTCT, Safe Sex and Stigma Reduction,� is to promote the prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, and the reduction of stigma against people infected and affected with HIV. She said the country has set a target of reducing mother-to-child-transmission of HIV by 95 per cent by the end of 2015, and this requires intensified efforts by all that human resource capacity is built and logistics and commodities required are always available. Mrs Mahama said treatment coverage for people living with the virus is now 60 per cent, and the transfer rate of infection to babies has also reduced from 31 per cent in 2009, to six per cent in 2014, where more than 10,000 babies will now be born free of HIV. She said HIV in Ghana is spread through unprotected sex with an infected person, adding that the virus is transmitted through sharing of needles, blades, and other sharp objects, or from a mother to her child during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. �Stigma and discrimination continue to be one of the main barriers hampering efforts at HIV testing, preventing disclosure of one�s status and obstructing access to treatment and care services�. She commended the efforts of funding partners in supporting programmes of the Commission, and appealed to the private sector and corporate organisations to invest in the health of the workforce. She urged all mosques to set aside a special fund to support the Commission to be used for interventions to prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in the country. Mr Gene Cretz, US Ambassador in Ghana, commended Ghana for taking a strong leadership role in driving the national HIV/AIDS response, adding that their outfit will not relent in supporting Ghana to reduce the burden of the virus. �The United States will continue to support the implementation of the National Strategic Plan because it is evidence-based, demonstrates joint planning with clear results and has specific strategies for at-risk populations� he added. Ms Susan Ngogi, UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, commended Ghana for making a huge stride towards the reduction of the virus, and urged government to double effort in achieving the prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission.