HIV/AIDS: Prevalence Among Gays, Female Sex Workers High . . . We Need to Rethink New Interventions - GHANET

Ghana among other countries has been striving to achieve a drastic reduction in HIV/AIDS prevalence by 2030. 

There have been numerous efforts to hit the 95-95-95 target announced by UNAIDS in 2014 aims. The 95-95-95 aims at ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95 percent diagnosed among all people living with HIV, 95 percent on antiretroviral therapy among diagnosed, and 95 percent virally suppressed among treated.

However, a recent report indicates that a total of 23,495 people tested positive for HIV in the first half of 2022 in Ghana.

The Programme Manager of the National STIs and HIV/AIDS Control Programme, Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, announcing the figures in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, said: "The figure for this new infection is too high, so we need to intensify education to let people know that HIV is still real; it is around and there must be constant reminders. We have to let people know that they need to stick to the prevention strategies, whether they are children or adults”. 

This means more need to be done if we want to achieve our 2030 target.

In view of this, Ghana HIV & AIDS Network (GHANET) in collaboration with PEPFAR/USAID/EPIC through Civil Society Institute for HIV and Health in West and Central Africa (CSIH-WCA) and ENDA SANTE (Senegal) has organized a workshop for stakeholders including the media, to rethink HIV interventions which will aid in bringing down the number of infections.

Mr Ernest Ortsin, President of GHANET speaking to said the, "workshop was to rethink strategies for key populations which are persons most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic: female sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM). If you look at the data, the prevalence for the MSM group is 18.1; and that of the female sex workers is around 4 percent and this is above the national prevalence of 1.7. So it means we need to have some special interventions for these groups. We have been working on HIV/AIDS for some time and the time has come for us to rethink the strategies and approaches especially because of recent report from the National AIDS control programme indicating we have over 23, 000 new HIV infections in the first half of 2022 alone, which is extremely high".

According to him, "we have a new therapy which is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP): how do we ensure that people who are most at risk can be given PrEP to prevent new infections? there's also the issue of mother-to-child transmission of the virus; how do we ensure that we meet the global standards? The media was brought here to ensure that beyond the headlines, they will understand the real issues affecting the people and educate others". 

The workshop themed "Rethinking HIV Intervention Strategies for Key and Priority Populations" was held at the Mensvic Hotel.

Dr Nii Nortey Hanson-Nortey (Vice Chairman of Ghana Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund) speaking at the workshop bemoaned the increasing number of infections, adding, "if measures are not put in place to curb the spread of the virus, our national development will be affected".

Stakeholders have meanwhile called for a social and behavioural change and have further suggested strategies to help educate the public as well as build confidence for self-testing which is one of the programmes soon to be rolled out.