First Lady interacts with women groups on HIV campaign

The First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, engaged with women groups in Accra, to promote the “Free to Shine” (F2S) campaign on HIV, together with related discussions on issues of national development.

The objective of the meeting was to provide the women with the required knowledge and information on the elimination of mother- to- child transmission of HIV, and make them couriers of the F2S campaign, spearheaded by the First Lady.

The groups, of about 19 included social associations and religious women.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo in an address, said the F2S campaign, which she launched in January 2019, was in line with global efforts to eliminate the possibility of any child being born with HIV, and that Ghana cannot be left out.

She said the meeting, which is in line with the ‘Free to Shine’ campaign was to ensure that children were born free of HIV and experience growth in their lives, while maintaining the health of mothers.

She said it was known from the 2017 Maternal Health Survey that over 97 per cent of women receive ante-natal care when pregnant, which was an indication that with a little effort, Ghana could achieve its 2020 target of ensuring the Prevention of Mother- to- Child-Transmission (PMTCT)  of HIV, and further secure the health of mothers.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo said attaining this, would be possible if all women test to know their status, receive and adhere to treatment if they tested positive, and also ensure that, they all learn about the facts and acquire knowledge on how to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.

She said that in the past, the mention of HIV and AIDS struck fear in the heart of many, but today enormous progress had been made in tackling the epidemic, yet there was still much to be done.

“The good news is that it is possible to eliminate the disease completely,” she said.

It was this hope that led to the current meeting with the women groups, who were expected to be key ambassadors of the Campaign in the various communities across the country.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo recounted her experience with the Heart to Heart Ambassadors when she first took office as the First Lady of Ghana, saying in engaging with them and listening to their stories, she became fully convinced about the possibility of living with HIV and having a full life, healthy spouses and children who do not have the disease.

“as much as it is good to have a good life living with HIV, our target is to have a country where no one has HIV,” she added.

She also urged the participants to go back into their communities, fully equipped with knowledge and information as agents of change to answer questions and clear doubts in the minds of people on HIV.

She further entreated the leadership of the various groups to set aside a day when, discussions of the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV would be the main topic for discussion in order for the message to reach a wider audience.

Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, acting Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), gave a brief background of the F2S campaign and said it was an action movement decided upon by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) during one of their General Assembly meetings to contribute to ending HIV infections and AIDS in children.

He said the First Ladies at the meeting, resolved to use every rightful means to achieve the goals of eliminating HIV. According to him, the organisation agreed to add their voices in advocacy, form partnerships, mobilise resources, and raise awareness on what must be done and could be done to end HIV and AIDS in children.

He said thanks to such campaigns, the perception of HIV as a death sentence had currently changed to that of a chronic disease, yet stigma remained a major challenge. He also mentioned that, the non-adherence to anti-retroviral therapy and the preference of some  pregnant women for prayer camp deliveries instead of health facilities, had become a worrying trend.

Mr. Fred Nana Poku, the Director of Technical Services for GAC, said the national campaign seeks among other things, to mobilise all women in their reproductive age, to access and utilize PMTCT of HIV services, strengthen follow-up actions for improved early infant diagnosis coverage, reduce HIV and AIDS related stigma and foster community involvement and participation in ending the disease among children.

Source: GNA

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