World AIDS Day to be commemorated December 1
This year’s World AIDS Day has been launched in Accra.
The event, which coincided with the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), was on the theme: "20 years of multi-sectoral response to HIV and AIDS in Ghana: Accelerating progress to end AIDS".
The global theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is: “Equalise”, a call to action to address the numerous inequalities that deny at-risk and vulnerable populations access to essential HIV services, thereby severely undermining progress towards ending AIDS by 2030.
The day, which falls on December 1, every year, is set aside by the UN to remember those who have died of AIDS, assess collective efforts at ending AIDS and strategise to achieve the targets set for nations.
The Director-General of the GAC, Dr Kyeremeh Atuahene, said as part of efforts to reverse the country’s current trend of 21,000 new HIV infections annually for the past five years, the commission was revamping partnerships and resource mobilisation initiatives.
“Our effort at strengthening coordination is in recognition of the sad reality that the people have become overly complacent as far as HIV is concerned,” he said.
He also said while high-risk behaviours had become increasingly pervasive in society, prevention protocols were least respected by individuals.
He also expressed concern over the fact that new infections continued to occur in high numbers among adolescent girls and young women, accounting for 20 per cent of total new infections that occurred in 2021.
Dr Atuahene, therefore, advised people to take responsibility of protecting themselves from HIV infection by adopting behaviours such as partner reduction, correct and consistent use of condoms and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
He said although “we now have the scientific tools and proven strategies to end AIDS in this decade”, challenges such as high levels of stigma and inadequate funding continued to hold the commission back from achieving the right scale of essential HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, said: “I am mindful of the challenges that face us. We have just about three years to 2025, the deadline set to achieve the 95-95-95 targets which are essential to ending AIDS by 2030.”
Dr Afriyie, who is also the executive oversight minister of the GAC, said stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV remained a major hindrance to the national response effort.
He further mentioned inadequate funding as a major challenge to ending AIDS, adding: “Indeed, evidence shows that investment in AIDS response yields positive returns, not just in economic terms but also as a positive spillover effect on other health conditions.”
The Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS, Dr Mokowa Blay Adu Gyamfi, said it was time to break the silence, stigma and discrimination which had become drawbacks to response to the HIV pandemic.
The Country representatives of UNAIDS and the World Bank, Hector Sucilla Perez and Dr Francis Chisaka Kasolo, respectively, pledged their organisations’ support to end the fight against HIV and AIDS in the country.
The President of the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), Ernest Ortsin, appealed to the Ministry of Finance to activate the HIV and AIDS Fund in the 2023 budget.