Major achievements have been made in HIV prevention and control. However, data available could point to the fact that HIV still contributes significantly to regional and Global disease burden.
According to the UNAIDS (2019), the latest data available as at the end of 2018, indicates that about 37.9 million people globally were living with HIV. And 1.7 million people became infected with HIV and some 32 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
As at the end of 2018, the UNAIDS has it that adults and children living with HIV in Ghana stood at about 330,000; with about 17,000 new infections occurring among adults aged 15 and above. Some 3,300 new infections also occurred among children (0-14 years).
The UNAIDS’ 2018 HIV facts sheet for Ghana also indicates that about 200,000 women aged 15 and above were living with HIV, while about 100,000 men aged 15 and above were living with HIV.
With respect to HIV testing and treatment, only 190,000 (out of 330,000) knew their HIV status; representing about 57%, with about 110,000 (34%) on ART as at 2018 (UNAIDS, 2019). The percentage of people living with HIV who have suppressed viral load from the above source for Ghana is currently unknown.
Should Ghana be worried about these statistics? The reported figures for new HIV infections for 2018 alone should be something we should be worried about as a nation. More importantly, we should be worried about the figures for the HIV burden in Ghana pointing to the fact that HIV disproportionately affects women as compared to men.
What do we need to be doing as a country in relation to HIV prevention and control?
Let’s make more commitment to eliminate the stigma, judgments and rejections surrounding HIV and people living with HIV. Structural factors relating to cultural, social and economic which render people (women especially) to HIV infection and treatment should be addressed.
Achieving the 90-90-90 targets would mean we are having a paradigm shift from the business as usual approach to HIV prevention and control and adopt robust approaches such as the combination HIV prevention. HIV prevention and control interventionists should move beyond the traditional behavioural (individual level) interventions to a more holistic and effective one that includes biomedical and structural interventions.
Sustainable economic empowerment for women and young girls should be highly considered in Ghana’s HIV prevention agenda, since this population is considered the most vulnerable to HIV infection. Employing scientific approaches in identifying key populations and tailoring HIV prevention and treatment interventions to meet their needs would be crucial in our efforts to achieving the 90-90-90 and or the 95-95-95 targets.
HIV is still a big deal, but situations have changed over the years. Positive diagnosis of HIV is no longer a death sentence. The development of HIV therapy and prophylaxis have come to change the narrative. Stop being judgmental towards people living with HIV; it could be you. Live HIV negative life and be positive towards people living with HIV.
Health Promotion Activist & Social Entrepreneur