The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), in collaboration with its partners has launched a Human Rights Strategic Plan for HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) services for 2020 to 2024.
The virtual launch of the document was done in Accra by Dr Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyamfi, the Presidential Advisor on HIV, in direct response to the GAC Act 2016, (Act 938), which was launched in 2017 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, inconsistent with current HIV and AIDS Policy, as well as with global best practices.
Dr Adu-Gyamfi, said one striking innovation of the Act was the Non-Discrimination Sections which addressed issues of human rights of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), and also Persons considered to be at high risk both TB and HIV infections, often called Key Vulnerable Population (KVPs).
She said the document, is a comprehensive response to these human rights-related barriers of HIV and TB services, which would eliminate all forms of inequalities including stigmatization and discrimination in sectors including health, education, and the justice system.
She commended the GAC and its stakeholders, acknowledging their sustained efforts, saying it was expected that the new Plan would be implemented to the realisation of the aspirations of universal access, leaving no one behind in the provision of HIV and TB services.
She used the occasion to appeal to the public to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention practices of wearing their face masks; regular handwashing with soap under running water; observing social or physical distancing; covering of mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying at home as much as possible, to halt the spread of the virus.
Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, the Director-General, Ghana AIDS Commission, said the Global Targets regarding the UNAIDS Modeling, recommended that countries worked to prevent new HIV infections, to achieve fewer than 500,000 by 2020, and less than 200,000 by 2030.
They were to increase access to HIV testing, treatment, and adherence support to achieve the 90-90-90 target by 2020, and 95-95-95 by 2030, while reducing stigma and discrimination (towards zero discrimination by 2020, maintained to 2030), he said.
Mr Atuahene said the “90-90-90” targets were being hindered by human rights-related barriers including stigma and discrimination; negative social attitudes; legal obstacles; intimidation by law enforcement agencies and negative attitudes of healthcare practitioners, towards KVPs, although HIV persisted as a public health concern.
He said the guiding principles of the document were based on the premise of “leaving no one behind,” hence stressing on availability, accessibility, acceptability and excellent services including healthcare and social justice, non-discrimination, equality, respect for privacy, confidentiality, personal dignity and autonomy, and ensuring meaningful participation and accountability for KVPs.
The goal, was to remove all barriers including gender-based, to HIV and TB services and improve access to quality healthcare and support services through pragmatic implementation strategies.
The Plan, he said embodied six strategic objectives, which seek among other things, to coordinate human rights interventions and advocate for the reformation of laws, regulations, and policies relevant to both diseases, and barriers to care services, and eliminate all forms of stigma and discrimination targeted at all KVPs.
Reverend Jacob Asare, the Interim Chairman of the NAP+ Management Committee, said the document was a turning point for Ghana, showing commitment it’s to aligning all interventions related to HIV and TB services, which would lead to more conscious and intentional integration of Human Rights activities, from project conceptualization through its implementation to its evaluation”.
He said it also marked a new era of sustainability to end stigma and discrimination related to HIV and AIDS, and TB, ensuring their elimination as public health threats by 2030, which must be a shared responsibility agenda for all stakeholder services, through commitment and ownership.
Ms Angela Trenton-Mbonde, the UNAIDS Country Director for Ghana, commended the country for the numerous strides made towards ensuring good health for its population, and said the Strategic Plan was of high quality and could serve as a model for other countries.
She called for a consistent and timely implementation of the document, especially in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant effect on societies, and pledged the UNAIDS’s support in its implementation.
Dr Isaac Lartey Annan, the Director of the Human Rights Department, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, said CHRAJ, would adopt the document for its working Plan, but proposed that in the medium to long term, there should be heightened advocacy with key justice players involving the Chief Justice, the police and the Ghana Health Service.