According to the 2011 HIV Sentinel Surveillance (HSS) report, Cape Coast, the regional capital of the Central Region recorded the highest HIV prevalence in the entire country, leaping from a prevalence of 2.2 per cent in 2010 to 9.6 per cent in 2011.
According to the report, the Central Region also recorded the highest HIV prevalence of 4.7 per cent in 2011, indicating more than a 100 per cent hike from 1.7 per cent in 2010, in addition to being the region with the highest rate of syphilis in the country.
These were made known by Dr. Angela El-Adas, Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission during this year’s national World AIDS Day celebration held in Cape Coast on Tuesday under the global theme, “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero AIDS related deaths, Zero discrimination”, with Ghana’s sub-theme as ‘Accelerating to Zero together’.
The Day which was marked with regional durbars throughout the country was attended by scores of people from across the region, including Ministers of state and other government officials, traditional leaders, as well as students.
Dr. El-Adas attributed the high HIV prevalence rate in the Central Region to a number of factors such as the influx of young, healthy migrant workers in the Western Region due to the oil find who had spilled over to the Central Region which had large numbers of vulnerable young people.
She said another reason was the fact that the Central Region was among the poorest regions in the country and faced intermittent food insecurity, adding that conditions such as these invariably increased vulnerability and sex work among others, which had profound effects on HIV transmission and management.
“The choice of Central Region was therefore deliberate to create the much needed awareness, expand and scale up interventions and services that would ensure a reduction in the HIV prevalence in the region, hopefully in 2013”, she said.
Dr. El-Adas noted that AIDS was at present the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide with unsafe sex being the main risk factor driving the epidemic in developing countries.
She said Ghana had in excess of 212,000 adults and children living with HIV, with over 60 per cent of them being women and that about 13 per cent of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) were between the ages of 15 to 24 years and they contributed about 37 per cent of all new infections in 2011.
She said in spite of the facts that over 75 per cent of pregnant women with HIV received services to prevent mother to child transmission, there were still 25 per cent who did not, and that over 170,000 children orphaned by HIV had been recorded since the disease was discovered in Ghana.
The Director General noted that since the Commission’s Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) began in 2003, a cumulative 73,000 PLHIV had benefitted from it with majority of them alive and still on ART.
She expressed worry about negative attitudes such as stigmatization and discrimination against PLHIV and advised the general public to do away with such attitudes and embrace AIDS patients into the society in order to make their lives comfortable and worth living, adding that the Commission would continue in its quest to eradicate stigma and discrimination.
The Central Regional Minister, Mrs. Ama Benyiwa-Doe called on all stakeholders involved to join forces with the Commission to help fight the HIV menace in the region and the nation at large.
A cake was cut to mark the ten-year anniversary of the Commission which also fell on the same day.