Over 900 persons died of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from January to June 2021 more than COVID-19 within the same period, Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programmes Manager, National AIDS/STI Control Programme has revealed.
Annually, it is estimated that about 13,000 people die from HIV in the country, and since the first recorded case of HIV in 1986, there are currently 346,120 people living with HIV as at the end of 2020.
Dr. Ayisi Addo, stated at the seventh edition of the Stakeholder Engagement and Worker Appreciation Seminar” organised by the Tema Regional Office of the Ghana News Agency.
The GNA Tema Stakeholder Engagement is a platform rolled-out for state and non-state actors to address national issues and serves as a motivational mechanism to recognize the editorial contribution of reporters towards national development in general and growth and promotion of the Tema GNA as the industrial news hub.
Dr. Ayisi Addo, said: “It is worse than COVID-19, but because the face of HIV has changed, we don’t see people who are mostly emaciated, so there is an assumption that HIV is no more.”
According to him, the 2020 HIV Estimates and Projections report by the Ghana AIDS Commission, revealed that some 5,200 new infections of HIV were recorded in children and adolescents out of a total population of about 19,000 in 2020 with 82 per cent being females.
He said new cases of HIV were also 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.
He said his outfit had observed that persons who were 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 compared to cohabiting, though with a relatively lower prevalence because of its casual nature and coupled with the fact that people had multiple sexual partners making their risks of HIV infection even higher.
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 very old people with a prevalence rate of seven per cent.
Also, he revealed that there was a surge in cases of HIV among pregnant women in the country attributable to the increased confidence in fertility among persons living with HIV.
According to him, Data analysis in the 2020 Sentinel Survey conducted showed that women who had been pregnant more than once had a higher prevalence compared to first pregnancies partly because of their confidence that they could have healthy babies.
The study, he said, further showed that among general Antenatal Care (ANC) clients, prevalence was two per cent and among those with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis among others was 10 per cent in 2020.
As a remedy to the increasing number of cases and accompanying deaths, he said: “The HIV prevention message has reduced a little and there’s need to reactivate it with enhanced education at all levels.”
He added that “it was becoming more subtle and dangerous because of the availability and usage of antiretroviral, and indicated that because of stigma, some women preferred to be silent about their status, and even when they divulged it, it seemed unbelievable resulting in the increasing number of cases”.