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Akufo-Addo calls for end to HIV stigma

To clear the road for its elimination, President Nana Akufo-Addo has urged all Ghanaians to reject stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the President noted stigma and prejudice as two important pillars that sustain inequality and invariably limit people’s access to HIV services.

At the 2022 World AIDS Day national durbar, which had as its topic “20 Years of a Multi-Sectoral HIV Response: Accelerating Progress to End AIDS,” he made the call.

“I thus appeal to our society’s respected voices, including traditional authorities, religious leaders, legislators, corporate executives, professional organizations, well-known people, and the media, to join forces in a collective rejection of HIV-related stigma and prejudice.

He said, “Stigma and discrimination are among the significant strongholds we are called upon to demolish as they assist maintain inequality, which invariably lowers people’s access to HIV services.”

“My government is firmly dedicated to eliminating inequities that impede progress toward abolishing AIDS as a public health issue by 2030,” the president declared.

In order to reach the aim of eradicating AIDS in this decade, he said efforts were being made to put those living with or impacted by HIV, as well as those at higher risk of infection, at the center by addressing structural, social, economic, and cultural barriers.

He said that combating AIDS was still a difficult effort that required the hard work and dedication of the government, partners, health professionals, civil society, and indeed all aspects of society.

He promised that everyone must play their part in maintaining a healthy populace in order to create a wealthy country.

Ghana must take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to eradicate HIV transmission and end AIDS as a public health issue without fail, the President said.

In order to achieve the 95-95-95 targets and ultimately put an end to AIDS, he urged the health sector to ensure that HIV testing, counseling, anti-retroviral treatment, viral load testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and co-morbidity treatment were all provided to as many people as possible.

As the government and its allies worked to increase access to condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications, the President exhorted Ghanaians to practice healthy sexual behaviors, such as partner reduction and condom use.

Additionally, he praised the GAC for organizing a strong, multi-sector national HIV response in the nation and celebrating its 20th anniversary of being founded.

The Director-General of GAC, Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, stated that despite difficulties, the national response has advanced significantly over the previous 20 years.

He pointed out that new infections and deaths from AIDS in the general population decreased by 41% and 59%, respectively, during the time period, and that the estimated adult HIV prevalence decreased from 2.5% to 1.6%.

“These decreases happened in all age and gender categories. The number of new infections among adults (15+) decreased by 32%, those among children (0–14) by 65%, and those among adolescents (15–24) by 35%.

Additionally, AIDS deaths decreased by 59% in adults aged 15 and older, 56% in children aged 0–14, and 50% in adolescents.

These significant reductions were the results of widespread use of anti-retroviral medicines and application of data and science in programming and policy formulation. The incidence per 1,000 uninfected population reduced from 1.56 to 0.57.

In order to achieve the eradication agenda, he claimed that the GAC would launch a large societal mobilization as part of its efforts to end AIDS.

In order to fulfill the national elimination agenda, he said, “The Commission is thus expanding collaborations with key stakeholders such as the media religious bodies, traditional authorities, professional bodies and other civil society organizations, the public and commercial sectors.”

At the event, development partners and civil society organizations reaffirmed the necessity for the government to reactivate the HIV and AIDS fund in order to improve domestic mobilization.

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