We are ready to eliminate stigma, protect the nation from HIV new infections – NAP+ Ghana
Ms Elsie Ayeh, President, Persons Living with HIV in Ghana (NAP+ Ghana) says the group is ready to help eliminate stigmatization and protect the nation from HIV new infections.
She said her outfit was poised and willing to lead communities with bold advocacy, sharing of information, feasible leadership, capacity strengthening and strategic action to achieve the targets.
“We are ready to take the challenge, we are ready to be at the forecourt with all our stakeholders, we cannot do this alone. Our focus is to live and have healthy lives without fear or discrimination, so we are ready to lead in directing choices of the path we want to take,” she stated.
The NAP+Ghana President was speaking at the launch of the 2023 World AIDS Day in Accra on the theme: “Let communities lead.” With a call on stakeholders to help communities achieve targets.
NAP+Ghana, is a group of persons living with HIV and are on care treatment with Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART).
The ART is a medication given to person living with HIV, which suppresses the viral load and saves lives.
For the past 20 years, the ART had saved the lives of thousands of Ghanaians, who otherwise would have suffered untimely deaths, increasing the number of persons on ART from 9,790 in 2020 to 12,539 in 2022.
Meanwhile, according to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) more than 300,000 persons had been initiated on ART since 2003, when the Programme started in Ghana, however, more than half of the number had been lost to treatment discontinuation or deaths.
After 18 years of the group’s existence, the NAP+Ghana said it was encouraged to get involved and help communities achieve the targets, saying “our priority is to ensure that all community members are on treatment and remain on treatment whiles providing information to prevent new infections.
Ms Ayeh, who had been living with HIV for the past 28 years, expressed concern as some affected persons had abandoned treatment and resorted to prayers and herbal medicine to cure HIV.
She said: “We know and have seen people who have stopped treatment and conform to prayers, we saw young people going for herbal treatment and we have seen them deteriorating before our eyes.”
“Despite the dangers, we still see some who have been stubborn, refusing treatment and we see many who have passed away with full of pain and regrets when it was too late…….…..we get fed up with taking medication, but we want to live and have healthy life and these two wishes work at the same time, but we cannot afford to stop taking our medications.” She added
“The theme for this year’s celebration “Let communities to lead”, puts that impetus on us to reach out to the 46, 000 people who are not aware of their status.
There is still a lot to be done and we have taken the challenge to lead, we want to support the youth who are the backbone of Ghana to remain healthy and productive and support the growth of the country and its economy.”
Ms Ayeh noted that some persons living with HIV were stigmatizing against themselves, causing self-destruction to the detriment of their lives and expressed the group’s commitment to reaching out to such persons, adding that eliminating self-stigma would boost self-confidence to stand against all odds.
She called on the government to make ARTs available across the regions to enable PLHIV to have easy access.