Ghana screens 48% of HIV-exposed infants

As at September 2018, Ghana had screened 48 per cent of all HIV-exposed infants (HEI) with five per cent being HIV positive.

This implies a mother-to-child HIV transmission rate of five per cent in the country, Dr Gloria Quansah Asare, the Deputy Director General of Ghana Health Service (GHS), announced on Thursday.

She said this at the launch of the “Free to Shine” campaign, an initiative by the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, which is aimed at eliminating Mother-to-child HIV transmission in Ghana.

Dr Quansah Asare said, there was the need for all stakeholders to be committed to efforts at preventing mother-to-child transmission to save Ghanaian children.

She disclosed that in 2018, almost 1.7 million HIV tests were done in Ghana with females forming 80 per cent of the numbers tested.

Almost half of the females tested were said to be pregnant women (864,266) out of which 1.6 per cent (13,802) were HIV positive.

Dr Quansah Asare said about 86 per cent (11,820) of all pregnant women testing HIV positive were given anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

“We also tested almost 500,000 pregnant women for syphilis with 2.8 per cent (13,636) positives identified and 96 per cent (13,098) of the positives given treatment,” she said.

She charged all those committed to the fight against HIV and AIDS to work together to ensure that every HIV-positive mother is diagnosed early and put on ART for life to prevent transmission to the next generation.

Dr Quansah Asare said there was also the need to identify and screen every HIV-exposed infant so that the positive ones could be put on ART to keep them alive “so we can have a happy family”.

She said the test for syphilis could be done at the same time as the HIV test and called on pregnant women to do the two tests together to help protect the next generation.

Government, through the GHS, was building healthcare worker capacity to provide quality HIV care across the health delivery system.

The National AIDS Control Programme is also on the drive to decentralize ART provision so every positive pregnant woman could get ART at point of diagnosis without being referred to another facility.

The Deputy D-G advised all women who wish to get pregnant to test and know their HIV status before they conceive, while every man should test for their status so they would not infect their unborn children with the virus in case they were positive.

My Kyeremeh Atuahene, the Acting Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, indicated that with the nearly 1,160,000 expected pregnancies in 2017, 28 per cent of the pregnant women missed the opportunity to test and 33 per cent of them, needing the life-saving ART never had the opportunity to receive treatment.

He, therefore, emphasized the need for all stakeholders to support the Free-to-Shine campaign to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Ghana.

The Free to Shine Campaign, a continental initiative of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA), the African Union and the UNAIDS, has come in handy to support and accelerate elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the country.

It has the theme; “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission: the Key to an HIV-Free Generation and Keeping Mothers Alive,” and was launched in Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana AIDS Commission.

In line with the theme, the Campaign seeks to achieve zero HIV infection in children by 2020, end AIDS in children by 2030 and keep infected mothers alive and healthy.

The Free to Shine Campaign, the First Lady said, would deepen efforts and make it possible to end HIV and AIDS in children in Ghana within the next two years.

Source: GNA

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