The United States government has renewed its efforts at ensuring an HIV-free world by 2030.
In the past 17 years, over 18 million lives in over 50 countries including Ghana have been saved, new infections reduced, mother-to-child transmission prevented, and progress towards global HIV/AIDS epidemic control accelerated, through interventions by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Addressing participants at the end of a 7-week PEPFAR virtual media training on Thursday, the U.S Ambassador to Ghana, Her Excellency, Stephanie S. Sullivan underscored the need for continuous partnership with the government, health authorities, international institutions and the media to promote advocacy, anti-stigmatization and most importantly test and treatment for persons living with HIV (PLHIV).
“The US Government is delighted to offer initiatives such as this workshop, because as we’ve seen in the past 7 weeks, they are effective.”
Through PEPFAR, the American people have invested a whopping $85 billion, to address a single infection, the largest commitment by any nation in history.
She expressed optimism that, with a shared responsibility, sense of purpose and dedication, the UNAIDS ultimate goal of “Test and Treat”, “95-95-95 by 2030” and “Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)” can be reached in the country.
“Here in Ghana, I’m confident we can work together towards achieving the UNAIDS’ FastTrack 95-95-95 goal, which aims for: 95% of the people living with HIV to know their positive status; 95% of those who test positive to be on sustained treatment; and 95% of those on treatment to have suppressed their viral load to the point where they cannot transmit it to anybody else.”
Ambassador Sullivan also recalled the successes chalked in the Western region, after the launch of a joint strategy in October 2019, aimed at achieving HIV epidemic control.
“I am pleased to report that since PEPFAR’s pivot to focus on achieving epidemic control in the Western Region, more than 4,500 new positive cases have been identified, 95 percent of people who newly tested positive were linked to treatment, and 73 percent of those on treatment had a suppressed viral load, with 60 percent of clients receiving the more convenient, multi-month dispensing of their anti-retroviral treatment, or MMD.”
She continued that: “With the introduction of the new HIV treatment known as TLD, which I like to refer to as The Life Drugs – TLD, we helped transition over 40 percent of eligible clients to this treatment and are striving to reach 100 percent by October this year.”
The US. Ambassador raised concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst to the decreasing numbers of patients accessing services, explaining, this development has affected the ability to provide HIV testing.
H.E Sullivan however assured that: “Using a whole of government approach, the United States is working together with our Government of Ghana partners to mitigate this challenge, and to scale up the effective interventions and best practices implemented in the Western Region to other regions.”
“I applaud the Government of Ghana’s achievements to date, with the support of PEPFAR and in close collaboration with the Global Fund and UNAIDS. However, we are not yet done. We cannot rest on our oars! The U.S. Government remains deeply committed to expanding key populations’ access to quality, stigma-free, lifesaving HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services. And with your help, through informed and informative media coverage, we can and will end stigma and discrimination and also reach epidemic control.”
The 2019 National HIV Estimates and Projections from the Ghana AIDS Commission, showed that PLHIV in Ghana number are about 342,307 and out of this figure, 316,352 are adults and 25,955 are children.
Also 8,275 deaths were averted with the intervention of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) in 2019 and a projected 11,733 deaths are expected to be averted in the year 2020.
Ambassador Sullivan moreover charged the 45 journalists who took part in the Zoom platform sessions to continuously share their knowledge with others through stories of hope, treatment and care for HIV.
PEPFAR, a whole government’s program also involves the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of State and the Department of Defense (DOD).
In October 2018, PEPFAR, established its West Africa Regional platform, with Ghana designated as the hub. The region includes Burkina Faso, Togo, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Senegal.
The participants drawn from across the country, on the other hand were appreciative to PEPFAR, the U.S. Embassy Ghana, and all other stakeholders for presenting the learning opportunity to them.
The virtual training was done in partnership with Media HealthLink, the African Centre for Development Reporting, Ghana Journalists Association, the Ghana AIDS Commission, the National AIDS Control Program with support from the U.S Embassy, Ghana.
Source: Patricia Ama Bonsu