President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has called on all Ghanaians to denounce HIV-related stigma and discrimination to pave the way for its eradication.
The President, in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, said stigma and discrimination were among the notable strongholds which perpetuate inequality, and invariably diminished the ability of people to access HIV services.
He made the call at the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and 2022 World AIDS Day national durbar on the theme, “20 Years of a Multi-Sectoral HIV Response: Accelerating Progress to End AIDS.”
“I therefore call on the venerated voices of our society, including traditional authorities, religious leaders, politicians, business executives. professional bodies, celebrities, and the media to unite in a collective denunciation of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.”
“Indeed, stigma and discrimination are among the notable strongholds we are called upon to dismantle as they help perpetuate inequality, which invariably diminishes the ability of people to access HIV services,” he stated.
The President said, “My government is fully committed to addressing inequalities that hold back progress to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”
He said efforts were being made to place people living with or affected by HIV and those at higher risk of infection at the centre by removing structural, social, economic, and cultural barriers to achieve the goal of ending AIDS in this decade.
He explained that ending AIDS continued to be an uphill task that required diligent and dedicated work of government, partners, health workers, civil society and indeed all sections of society.
He assured that the Government would do its part, and so must everyone for a healthy population to build a prosperous nation.
Ghana has the scientific tools and proven strategies to eliminate HIV transmission and end AIDS as a public health threat and must seize this golden opportunity without fail, the President said.
He called on the health sector to ensure optimal coverage of HIV testing and counselling, anti-retroviral treatment, viral load testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and treatment of co- morbidities, adding that it was the surest way of achieving the 95-95-95 targets and eventually end AIDS.
The President advised Ghanaians to adopt healthy sexual behaviours, including partner reduction and use of condoms as the Government and partners worked to make condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicines increasingly available.
He also commended the GAC for its 20th anniversary celebration of its establishment and leading a resilient national multi-sector HIV response in the country.
Dr Kyeremeh Atuahene, the Director-General of GAC, said despite challenges, the national response had made significant progress over the last 20 years.
He noted that over the period, the estimated adult HIV prevalence reduced from 2.5 per cent to 1.6 per cent, new infections and AIDS related deaths in the general population reduced by 41 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively.
“These reductions occurred across all age groups and gender. New infections in adults aged 15 years and older reduced by 32 per cent, in children 0-14 years by 65 per cent and young people (15-24 years) by 35 per cent.
AIDS deaths also reduced in adults 15 and above by 59 per cent, in children (0-14 years) by 56 per cent and in young people by 50 per cent.
These significant reductions were the results of widespread use of anti-retroviral medicines and application of data and science in programming and policy formulation. The incidence per 1,000 uninfected population reduced from 1.56 to 0.57.
He said the GAC as part of efforts to end AIDS would embark on massive social mobilization just as the initial stages to achieve the elimination agenda.
“The Commission is thus strengthening partnerships with key stakeholders such as the media religious bodies, traditional authorities, professional bodies and other civil society organisations, the public and private sectors in working together to achieve the national elimination agenda,” he stated.
Civil Society Organisations, Development Partners at the event reiterated the need for the Government to re-activate the HIV and AIDS fund to enhance domestic mobilization.