The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has launched a national campaign on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Dubbed: 'Free to Shine,’ the campaign is aimed at the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of the virus by mobilising women in their reproductive age to access and utilise prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services.
The overall aim of the campaign is to achieve zero HIV infection in children by 2020, end AIDS in children by 2030 and keep infected mothers alive and healthy.
It is a continental and national initiative launched by the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 29, 2018.
Objectives of campaign
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The campaign, among other things, will also strengthen follow-up actions for improved early infant diagnosis (EID) coverage, reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, as well as foster community involvement and participation in ending AIDS in children.
The campaign is in line with the global agenda to end AIDS in children on the theme: “Prevention of mother-to-child transmission: The key to an HIV-free generation and keeping mothers alive.”
The global agenda seeks to improve access to and patronage of quality antenatal services that include HIV testing, placement on anti-retroviral medicines if tested positive for HIV and continuous follow-up of mother and baby.
Ghana more resourced
At the launch of the campaign at the LEKMA Hospital at Teshie in Accra yesterday, Mrs Akufo-Addo said, it was possible that the campaign would increase the demand for services and so it was very critical that “we remove all bottlenecks associated with the supply side to meet the expected increase in demand.”
She said “it is possible to end HIV and AIDS in children in Ghana within the next two years, through the Free to Shine campaign”.
“I must point out that some African countries which have achieved or are on course to achieving elimination of mother-to-child transmission do not have the technical capacity and advantages that Ghana has. So we in Ghana can also do it,” Mrs Akufo-Addo stated.
She called on the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), the Association of Private Health Providers, religious and traditional leaders, development partners and the private sector to support the campaign.
She also encouraged men to support their pregnant wives to test for HIV.
The acting Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Mr Kyeremeh Attuahene, said coverage of HIV among pregnant women was 71 per cent in 2017, while only 67 per cent of those who tested positive received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
He said the Free to Shine campaign gave a platform for the government, development partners, civil society and the private sector to work together to eliminate HIV infections in children.
The Deputy Director General of the GHS, Dr Gloria Quansah Asare, said the capacities of healthcare workers were being built to provide quality HIV care across the country.
She said as part of the integration of services by the GHS, PMTCT was being integrated into Maternal, Newborn, Adolescent and Child Health (MNACH).
The United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) Country Director, Ms Angela Trenton-Mbonde, emphasised the need for HIV testing, treatment and remaining on treatment, routine data collection and a family-centred testing approach for pregnant women.