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GAC to hold third National HIV and AIDS Research Conference

BY: Samuel K. Obour

The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), in collaboration with its partners, will hold a National HIV and AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) this September.

The conference, which is the third to be organised by the commission has the theme: “Utilising Strategic Information for an Effective National Response”.

The primary objective of the conference is to provide a platform for stakeholders to share information and experiences, discuss results of key researches and examine their implications for improving the quality of the national HIV and AIDS response.

For four days, the GAC will engage policy makers, implementers and researchers on various sub-themes to provide strategies to resolve critical challenges based on scientific evidence.

A statement issued by the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of NHARCON, Prof. Isabella Quakyi, said the conference would also bring together implementing partners, development partners, policy makers and all stakeholders in the HIV and AIDS National Response.

It will cover  four areas-Key Populations Research and best practices; Antiretroviral (ART) and Clinical Interventions; Gender and Human Rights and HIV Prevention.

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There will also be oral and poster presentations, abstract-driven and plenary sessions and presentations on current scientific and best practices to be delivered by experts.

Topical issues to be discussed include; Progress of the last decade of expanded HIV response,The road to Zero and Achieving combination prevention; a strategic approach to eliminating HIV; Sustaining the AIDS Response through country ownership and leadership and the Post 2015 HIV Agenda

Ghana is among five countries in sub-Sahara Africa whose HIV prevalence declined by more than 52 per cent between 2001 and 2010 among young people aged 15-24, according to a UNAIDS 2011 report.

The HIV epidemic in this country is characterised as a low-level generalised epidemic with high prevalence ranging from 11 per cent  to 18 per cent among key populations , comprising female sex workers, men who have sex with men [MSM], prisoners and people who inject drugs.

Current HIV infection estimates show that in 2012,  235,982 persons were living with HIV, with 27,734 being children. There was also an estimated 7,138 new infections, 11,655 AIDS deaths and 852 new child infections in the same year.

The HIV prevention interventions have been expanded significantly to cover more Ghanaians, including the key populations. Currently, about 34,000 female sex workers and 17,000 men who have sex with men are being reached with HIV prevention services throughout the country.

In spite of the feat achieved through the implementation of the national multi-sectorial strategies, there still remain several challenges.

For instance, there is a total of 34, 545 adults and 44, 267 children in need of treatment.

Stigma and discrimination against people living with or affected by HIV remains a challenge and impedes uptake of HIV testing and adherence to treatment.

To surmount these challenges, there is the need for evidence to inform programming which will affect the national response positively.

By Rosemary Ardayfio/Daily Graphic/Ghana