Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programmes Manager, National AIDS/STI Control Programme has described as worrying new cases of HIV infection recorded among the younger population in the country.
Data analysis in a Sentinel Survey conducted by the Ghana Aids Commission in 2020 revealed that, some 5,200 new infections in children 0-14 were recorded out of a total population of about 19,000 with 18 per cent of the figure being females.
Since the first case of HIV in 1988, there were currently 346,120 people living with HIV as at the end of 2020, with 66 per cent of the figure being females and about eight per cent being children aged 0-14.
He said new cases of HIV were being recorded amongst persons 15-19 years which meant that new infections were appearing in the younger age group, revealing that there was some interaction between younger people and older persons in terms of sexual engagements.
Dr Ayisi Addo was speaking at the seventh Stakeholder Engagement and Worker Appreciation Seminar” organised by the Tema Regional Office of the Ghana News Agency.
According to him, the National AIDS/STI Control Programme had observed that persons cohabiting had the highest prevalence of 3.5 per cent, while singles accounted for 3.1 per cent and married people 2.5 per cent.
The figure, he said, showed that being single had a high risk and compared to cohabiting, it was higher because of its casual nature and coupled with the fact that people had multiple sexual partners which made their risk of HIV infection even higher.
“Such persons easily get pregnant, often with different partners; but singles also had a higher prevalence compared to married people as formal marriages were seemingly protective with a comparatively lower risk,” he added.
Dr Ayisi Addo noted that the younger people continued to have some risk of HIV transmission despite the fact their prevalence compared to age 15-24 with a 1.1 per cent prevalence, was lower than old people with a prevalence rate of seven per cent.
He said as one aged, the risk of HIV was higher, adding that the Survey considered persons living with HIV with a possibility that pregnant woman who came to deliver may have been positive before delivery since fertility at age 45-19 was low
The Programmes Manager reiterated that new infections were occurring in the country and young females must be protected at all cost, and said such cases were linked to issues of abuse and violence.
“There should be an understanding of the female gender because the sexual reproductive organ of the female makes it easier for them to get STIs compared to males,” he said, and emphasised that because the vagina was a receptacle, things deposited there stayed longer and once there was a breach it resulted in higher risk.
“That is why rape is a high risk behaviour because there is resistance in the act and the likelihood of occurring is high, leading to higher transmission,” he added, and called for the protection of females from abuse and gender based violence.
As a remedy, he said there was a need to empower young girls through education to prevent HIV transmission considering the recent records of new infections, stressing that adolescent clubs created for the girls to reach out to them through empowerment on their rights and assertiveness to ward off abusers.
Mr Francis Ameyibor, Tema Regional Manager, Ghana News Agency, in an address, said modern journalism practices demanded comprehensive dynamic approach to issues affecting society and thus such platforms needed to be provided for proactive engagement and exchange of ideas towards shaping national development.
The media, he noted, needed to champion national discussions and carry all persons along the discourse including people in market places, rural areas, communities, literates and illiterates alike.
Mr Ameyibor said: “The media must reach out to all segments of society irrespective of their status, everyone’s voice or opinions matter in the public debate for national development”.