The National AIDS/STI Control Programme says Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) Kits will soon be made available in pharmacies as part of efforts to control national HIV infections.
Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Programme Manager, said ready access to the self-testing kits would ultimately lead to early diagnosis and effective treatment to reduce the infection rate.
He said the National AIDS/STI Control Programme had started piloting the initiative and people who test positive would be advised to report to a facility to start their treatment.
Dr Ayisi Addo was speaking at the launch of the 5th National HIV and AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) to be organised by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) in 2023.
The NHARCON 2023, on the theme, “Achieving HIV Epidemic Control Amidst Emerging Health Threats,” begins on April 25-28, 2023.
The Programme Manager said this was important as Ghana, within the first six months of 2022 recorded a total of 23,495 new infections of HIV, adding that out of this figure, men have a prevalent rate of 3.6 per cent and females had 2.2 per cent prevalence.
Nine hundred and thirty-two persons died of HIV out of the current 259,408 on treatment and the remaining over 101,500 are yet to be identified, he added.
“This is in excess of the estimated 19,000 new infections annually and lower than the previous year’s positive yield of approximately 25,000,” he stated.
The Programme Manager noted that the Bono Region continues to lead in prevalence at above 4 per cent for both routine and HSS data for the period under review.
Dr Ayisi Addo explained that the 2021 HIV Sentinel Survey (HSS) prevalence for Bono East and Ahafo were 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively and remained in the top five for routine data for the first six months of 2022 aside Western North, Ashanti, Greater Accra and Eastern Regions.
He said Ghana’s dream of achieving epidemic control would be a mirage if the country did not regularly update the target population with information generated about them.
“Despite our progress towards achieving the global World Health Organization-UNAIDS aspirational 95.95.95 targets by 2030, our dream to achieve epidemic control remains a mirage.”
The 95-95-95 means that by 2025, 95 per cent of the total population of persons who are HIV positive should know their HIV status, 95 per cent of these persons should be on medication if tested positive and 95 per cent who were taking their medication should have viral suppression. However,Ghana as of December 2021, had achieved 71-99-79 of the set targets.
He said without evidence and real time data collected and disseminated to the people, to help in prevention, it would be impossible to achieve the goals no matter how laudable efforts and aspirations the country had put in place.
He called for the need to prioritize, fund dissemination and learning fora such as NHARCON as part of the prevention initiative to enable the country realise its dream of achieving epidemic control.
The Programme Manager noted that the need for data use for effective decision making had become urgent and called on stakeholders for abstracts that would contribute to addressing programmatic gaps within the national response.
He urged the Government to also use the opportunity ahead to build capacity of the teaming health workers and delegates to play a greater role in data generation, analysis and use for impactful interventions.
The conference is a platform to share ideas in support of the implementation of the current National Strategic Plan (2021-2025).
It also forms part of the GAC’s mandate to disseminate and share HIV and AIDS strategic information with its stakeholders and partners in the implementation of the National Response.