US says will continue supporting Ghana for AIDS-free generation
The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) celebrating its 10 years of existence has reiterated its continuous support to scale-up activities that will ensure an AIDS-free generation in Ghana.
“This will only work if government prioritizes its activities, retain and sustain all activities undertaken over the years”, Ms Laurel Fain, Office Director in Charge of Health, Population and Nutrition of the USAID, said in Accra.
Briefing a cross-section of the Ghanaian Media in commemoration of the 10th anniversary, Ms Fain noted that government had made strides in providing for the needs of its most vulnerable people, “but it must ramp up these efforts with significant contributions in order to solve this looming crisis”.
She noted that PEPFAR was ready to assist government of Ghana to achieve the targets.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief works in partnership with countries to fight the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS. PEPFAR is the largest donor of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and has directly funded the Government of Ghana’s AIDS response since 2002.
In Ghana, PEPFAR supports programmes meant for people who are most at risk for HIV and AIDs, including commercial sex workers, their partners, men who have sex with men, with services and information that they need to prevent the spread of the disease.
In 2012, PEPFAR programmes connected with over 108,000 individuals to assist them with the skills they needed to protect themselves from HIV.
It also supported the country with a total of 11 million condoms, which have been distributed in Ghana in 2012.
PEPFAR in Ghana directly supported HIV counseling and testing for more than 86,000 people in 2012. Its projects also aim to increase the use of HIV testing and counseling and screening and treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases, both by educating target populations and by improving the quality of services provided in Ghana, so that more people are willing and able to access them.
Worldwide, life-saving ARV treatment for nearly 5.1 million people worldwide; testing and counseling for more than 49 million people, including 11 million pregnant women, and treating 750,000 of those women to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV, allowing 250,000 infants to be born HIV-free.
Ms Fain explained that despite the strides made, there were some hurdles that needed to be addressed and mentioned stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV, together with a basic and severe lack of supplies and medicines as some of the impediments.
Ghana in June 2012, experienced shortage of ARVs in some parts of the health facilities, which threatened the effective treatment of HIV and AIDS.
The reports indicated that some hospitals had limited supply of Efavirenz 600mg tablets for adults’ first line treatment drugs which come in 50mg capsules but now made for children.
This situation resulted in the adult PLHIV taking 12 pills of the 50mg drugs daily instead of a single dose of 600mg of the ARV, which is described by a number of the health personnel and the members of PLHIV as “cumbersome”.
The alarming shortages compelled the HIV facilities to ration first line drugs to PLHIV in a bid to prevent a complete shortage of the ARVs.
In Ghana, it meant that only 50 per cent of pregnant women received Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission services in 2012and only about 66 per cent of eligible PLHIV were able to access treatment by the end of last year.
She noted that funding for anti-retroviral treatment was lagging behind and that the US government was committed to supporting Ghana to decrease address the situation.
Dr Fazle Nasim Khan, Outgoing Director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the USAID explained that his department has helped in the development of Ghana’s Laboratory Strategic Acceleration Policy and was working on 15 laboratories building their capacities and standards.
He said CDC was working closely with government-Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health to build capacity and strengthen systems using the Cooperative Agreement Mechanism.
He noted that more than the 150 laboratories in Ghana were unfortunately not accredited to any standards, which made it impossible to compare them with any international standards.
He said CDC was working with the three teaching hospitals, nine regional hospitals, National Reference Laboratory and reference laboratories in Sunyani and Koforidua to upgrade them to an international level.
“We started from zero level and two are now on the second level. The National Reference Laboratory, Korle Bu and Koforidua and gradually we will get there”, he added.
Listing some of the challenges facing the CDC Ghana, Dr Khan mentioned the inactiveness on the part of Ghana Health Service from the top level and an uneven distribution of personnel and urged them to make laboratory issues a priority.
“It is our aim to make Ghana the hub of medical laboratory in West Africa if not Africa so the other countries on the continent will come and learn from you”, he added.
Dr Khan called for government support to make the dream a reality, adding, “We want government for that matter Ghana Health Service to own the initiative and be proud of it”.