Ghana voices cautious optimism in AIDS war gains

Accra- Ghana (PANA) – Managers of Ghana's HIV/AIDS- programme have voiced cautiou s optimism in gains made in the war against the pandemic saying although the pre v alence rate is sliding, it is too early to heave a sigh of relief.
"Ghana is doing very well.
we are gradually winning the war against the (pande mic)," Prof.
Sakyi Awuku Amoa, Director-General of the Commission, said.
He added that Ghana could achieve the control target by increasing prevention an d control programmes, advocacy and awareness creation, including addressing logi s tics problems facing the programme.
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Ghana has steadily declined as a result of enhanced mu lti-sectoral response programmes that aim at reducing the rate to less than one p er cent, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported on Tuesday.
However, Prof.
Awuku Amoa cautioned that there should be no complacency despite the progress saying the country is not yet out of the woods.
"We are on the way to winning the war but we need not be complacent," he said.
H e added that there was need for people to continue to appreciate the mode of con t racting the disease and apply the needed behavioural change.
There are currently about 300,000 AIDS infected persons in Ghana out of which 15 ,000 are on anti-retroviral drugs.
Awuku Amoa said national prevalence dropped to 1.
9 per cent at the end of last year, from 2.
2 per cent in 2006 and 3.
6 per cent in 2004, adding that this w ould have a positive impact on the economy through increased productivity.
"HIV is a business issue.
It has a major negative economic impact as a result o f the associated high level of absenteeism from work.
You will lose competent st a ff and spend more money recruiting new employees.
All these lead to reduction in productivity.
" Prevalence among the youth aged 25-29 years as of December last year was 3.
5 per cent, down from 4.
5 per cent in 2006.
Awuku Amoa said over a five-year period, the rate of infection among comme rcial sex workers in the cities had also reduced to 52 per cent in 2006, down fr o m 80 per cent in 1999 as a result of increased condom usage and protection advoc a cy.
"Commercial sex workers constitute a crucial area that we focus our strategic po licies on and I can say we have made a significant progress in that area," he sa i d.
Condom usage among female sex workers is currently 98 per cent.
"Apart from some regular clients that do not use condom, the indications are tha t they now insist on protection, more than before.
" Prof.
Awuku Amoa said a voluntary counselling and testing segment of the program me targeting pregnant women had been a major booster.
Under this policy, all pregnant women visiting antenatal clinics are automatical ly tested.
"This has really helped to identify cases of mother-to-child transmission," he s aid.
Those infected are immediately processed for treatment and care.
Awuku Amoa said the major difficulties were lack of adequate health profes sionals, particularly physicians, in the general health care system to implement control programmes and stigmatization.
Currently, there are only about 1,200 doctors at public health institutions in G hana, which has a population of about 22 million.
Awuku Amoa said unfortunately there were still sections of young people wh o still had doubts about the prevalence of AIDS and therefore did not consciousl y protect themselves.
However, general condom usage has increased to 34 per cent from 28 per cent amon g women, and from 44 per cent to 52 per cent among men.

05 august 2008 20:49:00

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