Kumasi, May 4, GNA - Only seven per cent of the total Ghanaian population has opted for voluntary counselling and testing to know their HIV/AIDS status.
Dr Nii Acquaye Addo, Manager of the National AIDS/Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme, made this known at the launch of the Ashanti Voluntary Testing and Counselling (VTC) and the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS service centres in Ashanti Region in Kumasi, on Wednesday.
He has therefore called on health service providers to offer routine counselling service to clients who come into contact with them, to encourage as many people as possible to test and know their HIV/AIDS status.
The VTC/PMTCT is an initiative of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to provide easy access to counselling and testing services for HIV/AIDS and reduce the spread of the disease from the mother to child in order to save the lives of many children and women in the country.
The WHO is supporting the programme with funding and technical support from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ghana.
Currently, Ashanti Region has 34 centres that provide VTC/PMTCT services and it is the only Region in Ghana that has the service centres in all the districts.
Dr Acquaye Addo said the GHS had 90 VTC/PMTCT service centres in 54 districts throughout the country and hoped to increase them to 240 centres to enable more people to access the services.
Dr Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director General of the GHS, said Ghanaians should not be complacent about the reported reduction in the prevalence rate of the HIV/AIDS since there were high prevalent rates in some key towns and districts.
He said the high teenage pregnancy rates in the country, suggested that, the youth were engaging in unprotected sex and appealed to religious groups and parents to openly discuss sexual issues to enable the youth to make informed choices on their sexual behaviour.
Dr Melville George, WHO country representative, said HIV/AIDS was now a developmental issue and called for effective linkages between health service providers and communities to achieve the desired results. Madam Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister, who launched the centres, appealed to the Ashanti Regional Health Directorate to intensify education and dissemination of information on the service centres to encourage more people to access them.
She commended the WHO and the Royal Netherlands Embassy for the support and urged them to assist the GHS to establish more service centres in the communities to enable many more people benefit. Dr Kofi Asare, Ashanti Regional Director of Health Services, said the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Ashanti reduced from five in 2003 to three per cent in 2004.
He, however, said Obuasi continued to record a high prevalence rate of six per cent and called for a special attention in the District to reduce the spread of the disease.