Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia was sworn in to the newly constituted Board of Directors of the Ghana AIDS Commission on Thursday at Jubilee House in Accra, instructing them to work harder to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of putting end to AIDS by 2030.
Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, chairs the 19-member Council.
The Vice President said that since taking office in January 2017, Ghana had made huge strides in its response to the fight against HIV, with new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths declining. by 14% and 19%, respectively, between 2016 and 2020.
The gains, he said, were made possible through the direct scaling up of testing and antiretroviral treatment services using differentiated service delivery models across the country.
In addition, during the same period, the uptake of HIV testing increased by 80%, while the number of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission increased by 159%. -he declares.
Currently, there have been an average of 21,000 HIV and AIDS-related deaths per year over the past five years, with more than 245,000 of the estimated 346,000 people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy.
Board members are Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, Director General of the Commission, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health, Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, Acting Minister of Gender, Children and Welfare Social Affairs, Mr. Daniel Botwe, Minister of Local Government and Rural Decentralization and Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director General of Ghana Health Service.
The others are: Dr Leticia Adalaide Appiah, Executive Director of the National Population Council, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, Government Statistician, Mr Victor Attah Ntumi, President, Ghana HIV and AIDS Network, Rev. Dr. Cyril GK Fayose, General Secretary of Ghana Christian Council of Churches, Alhaji Muhammed Baba Shajbu, a representative of the Federation of Muslim and Ahmadiyya Missions, Pimampim Yaw Kagbrese V, representative of the National House of Chiefs, Mr. Franklin Owusu Ansah, a representative of the Trades Union Congress and Ms. Elsie Cornelia Arkorful-Ayeh, President of the Network of Associations of People Living with HIV.
Vice President Bawumia said the number of people living with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment had increased by nearly 100% over the past five years.
The Vice President said that significant progress has also been made in the area of data system strengthening, which has improved the capture and use of data in health facilities across the country.
He said the positive developments had put Ghana in a much stronger position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of ending AIDS by 2030.
“Our work, however, is far from done. HIV remains a major public health problem and AIDS is one of the leading causes of death in Ghana, with an average of 21,000 deaths per year over the past five last years.
“With more than 245,000 of the estimated 346,000 people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy, we are not expected to see such large numbers of new infections and AIDS-related deaths.
Dr Bawumia urged Board members to use their experiences and technical expertise to help strengthen the “Return to Care Campaign”, which the Commission had launched to end the spread of HIV and AIDS.
He said the government was fully committed to providing domestic resources to meet the demands of the National HIV and AIDS Fund to enable the Commission to meet its responsibilities financially and to make it self-sustaining on a lasting basis.
“Currently, under the Treat All policy, clients receive antiretroviral therapy within seven days of diagnosis using standard models of care and a patient-centred approach that ensures better linkage to care and retention. in care,” he said.
“Yet clients on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy turn to herbal or spiritual substitutes in response to false claims of cure. Discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy often results in increased viral load, and ultimately death,” said Dr. Bawumia.
“Regarding the issue of inadequate laboratory equipment and supplies in health facilities, I have been informed that the Global Fund is purchasing an additional number of GeneXpert machines to mitigate this challenge.
“There is an urgent need to install these machines as soon as they become available to improve patient monitoring and early infant diagnosis.”
He observed that the national HIV and AIDS program had shown remarkable resilience in the face of COVID-19 over the past two years.
However, the country was not spared its devastating impact. COVID-19 has disrupted HIV testing, prevention and treatment services in Ghana and continues to pose a significant threat to people living with HIV, he added.
He noted that with COVID-19 still present, the country faces a serious challenge to end AIDS by 2030, as it has the potential to reverse the gains made in the HIV response.
“Therefore, we cannot afford to see the significant gains made in the response to HIV and AIDS reversed.
“I am fully aware of the underfunding of HIV programmes, with donors expecting the government to fill the funding gap of over 60% of the estimated cost of the National HIV Strategic Plan and AIDS 2021-2025,” said Dr Bawumia.
“Specifically, the government is required to provide funding to cover the costs of rapid diagnostic test kits, reagents and other laboratory supplies, antiretroviral drugs to treat some 225,000 people, and the supply of condoms.
“The costs of prevention services for the general population, the coordination and management of the national response will also be borne by the government,” he assured.
The Vice President said that since the Ghana AIDS Commission Act 2016 (Act 938) did not provide any dedicated source of revenue for the Fund, the previous Board had identified additional sources of funds that could ensure a continued flow of income to the Fund.
He was of the view that financing HIV should be a shared responsibility and therefore industries whose activities have created conditions conducive to the spread of HIV should share the burden of financing.
He reminded the Council of the Commission’s mandate to prevent and control the HIV and AIDS epidemic, to promote and protect the rights of people living with HIV and to provide for related purposes.
This, he said, should guide the board’s decisions and actions at all times.
“The Commission has incorporated the HIV and AIDS-related SDGs into the National Strategic Plan for the Fight against HIV and AIDS 2021-2025. Ending AIDS and achieving control of the epidemic are the objectives of the National Strategic Plan for the Fight against HIV and AIDS (PSN) 2021-2025.
“These goals are to be achieved by achieving the 95-95-95 accelerated test and treat targets, which require that by 2025: 95% of all people living with HIV in the country will be diagnosed; 95% of those diagnosed must be placed on antiretroviral treatment; and 95% of those on antiretroviral treatment must be virally suppressed”, reminded the vice-president to the board of directors
The National Strategic Plan, he said, aims to reduce new infections and deaths from AIDS by 85 percent, as well as eliminate mother-to-child transmission.
“The strategy ensures that prevention, testing and treatment are delivered as a comprehensive package through standard models of differentiated services, to ensure that groups, communities and individuals receive tailored services that meet their needs. their specific needs,” said the vice-president.
Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, Chairman of the Council, in his acceptance speech, thanked the President for the confidence placed in them and believed that with the support of the government, they would fulfill their mandate.