High stigmatization and discrimination of People Living with HIV (PLWHIV) threatens Ghana’s efforts to achieve the United Nation’s agenda 95-95-95, Ms Dzid Enyonam Kwame, Media Specialist, United States President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) said on Thursday.
The ambitious 95-95-95 strategy was announced by UNAIDS in 2014, aiming to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95 percent diagnosed among all PLHIV, 95 percent on antiretroviral therapy (ART) among diagnosed, and 95 percent virally suppressed (VS) among treated.
“Stigma discourages people from knowing their HIV status and thereby, threatens to achieve effective solutions to the UN goal”, Ms Enyonam Kwame stated.
She was addressing the opening session of a two-day media training on HIV, underway at Goaso, the Ahafo Regional capital, being organised by PEPFAR.
Describing HIV stigma as scary, Ms Dzid Enyonam Kwame, the PEPFAR Media Specialist explained the stigma was high in the country because many people still did not have enough knowledge on the disease.
She said the media had enormous roles to play towards ending HIV stigmatization, discrimination, and inequality, hence, the need to train and empower journalists to well understand HIV and lead the campaign.
Ms Enyonam Kwame said as the largest contributor, the US government was doing everything possible to ensure epidemic control, and expressed the hope the media in the country would also use their various outlets to intensify awareness creation as well.
Mr Robert Dwomoh Mensah, the Asutifi South District Chief Executive said statistics from the Ahafo Regional Directorate of Health revealed an estimated population of 8,507 people with HIV in the region, but regretted only about 4,000 of them knew their HIV status.
He said people were not testing for HIV in the region because of high discrimination and stigmatization and appealed to the media to help intensify awareness creation on HIV to help control public stigma.
Mr Mensah welcomed the media training and commended the PEPFAR, saying the training would empower the media to put a spotlight on HIV and help control it’s spread.
Mr Ahmed Ibrahim Bambilla, the Bono Regional Technical Coordinator of the Ghana AIDS Commission expressed discomfort HIV prevalence in the Bono and Ahafo Regions remained high, saying Bono has 4.2 percent while Ahafo had 2.1 prevalence, according to the 2020 HIV sentinel survey.
HIV, he added remained a key public health threat, and advised the media to take the challenge, upscale public education, and help reduce stigma for more people to test and know their status for the country to achieve epidemic control.