Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Programme Manager for the National AIDS/STI Control Programme, has called for strong political commitment to end Pediatric HIV in West and Central Africa.
“In ending HIV among children, we need to pay attention to the data, have continued dialogue, provide funding and build capacity not only in the health system but among state actors”, he stated.
This, he said, would ensure multisectoral responses in the fight against Pediatric HIV in West and Central African including Ghana.
Dr Ayisi made the call at the opening of a three-day regional summit on ending AIDS in children in West and Central Africa.
The meeting organised by Civil Society Institute for Health in West and Central Africa (CSO WCA)in collaboration with Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) with support from USAID seeks to join efforts between civil society organizations (CSOs) to end AIDS in the region.
It also seeks to empower communities and CSOs with the means to do testing, outreach and contribute in terms of care and support.
According to Dr Ayisi, Ghana’s total HIV population is 354,927, out of the figure seven per cent cent were children hence the need to turn attention.
He said in as much as fighting to end pediatric HIV was important there was the need to also focus on the role of caregivers and the family around the child to build their capacities psycho-socially to provide the needed care.
Mrs Nguissali Turpin, Executive Director, Civil Society Institute for Health West and Central Africa, said the meeting was important as data indicates that 60 per cent of children living with HIV know their status adding that half of the figure were on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
She said 65 per cent of new HIV infections were transmitted to the children because their mothers did not receive adequate ART treatment.
“This is important to ensure that the West and Central Africa is up to speed when it comes to pediatric HIV,” Mrs Turpin.
She called for the need to identify concrete measures for the CSOs and government.
We look forward to their voices being heard and contribute to the development of better policies that reflect the needs of communities to tackle pediatric HIV in the region, she added.
Dr Rita Owusu-Amankwah, the Director of Policy and Planning, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), representing the Director-General, said the meeting played pivotal rile towards ending HIV in children.
Dr Amankwah speaking on the importance of the meeting said the GAC said the Commission had undertaken a number of stakeholder initiatives to mobilise community support for the national response.
She said the GAC was committed to ending all forms of stigmatization in all settings to help eradicate the menace everywhere one finds him or herself.
Dr Amankwah urged CSOs to be guided by the urgency to end HIV in children to meet the 2030 target.
Dr Sebastian Sandaare, Member of Parliament for Daffiama Bussie Isa Constituency, and member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, said ending HIV in children was doable and called for the provision of adequate resources to prevent it.
He assured that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health would play their oversight role to push for budgetary allocation for HIV cure.
Dr Sandaare said steps were advanced to launch the HIV fund by tomorrow saying “I believe there will be some commitments because one of the major challenges in addressing the issue of AIDS in children was funding.
Mr Héctor Sucilla Pérez, UNAIDS Country Director to Ghana, said to end AIDS in children and eliminate mother-to-child-transmission, there was the need to let communities lead and have strong collaborative mechanisms.
He said this crucial to enable governments allow CSOs to assist the work on the field by testing pregnant women, provide continued funding and more especially test children for treatment.
Some young adults who have been living with HIV since childhood shared their experiences and challenges and called for resources to end the disease among children.