World AIDS Day was established in 1998 to bring people together to express solidarity with persons living with HIV, and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. In line with this, the Government of Ghana on this day, assesses the national performance in responding to the epidemic, and re-strategies to end AIDS.

This yearโ€™s World AIDS Day which was on the theme ๐‘ฌ๐’๐’… ๐‘ฐ๐’๐’†๐’’๐’–๐’‚๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’†๐’”. ๐‘ฌ๐’๐’… ๐‘จ๐‘ฐ๐‘ซ๐‘บ. ๐‘ฌ๐’๐’… ๐‘ท๐’‚๐’๐’…๐’†๐’Ž๐’Š๐’„๐’” had the Municipal Chief Executive for Sagnarigu, Hon. Yakubu Ahmed Mohammed stepping in for the Northern Regional Minister, Hon. Alhassan Shani Shaibu to commemorate the day in the Northern Region of Ghana.

Speaking on the theme, Hon. Yakubu said, indeed, gender inequalities, stigma and discrimination associated with populations at higher risk of HIV prevent people from accessing prevention and treatment services.

โ€œGender inequality is a major reason for the disproportionate disease burden on women and girls. Two (2) out of three (3) Ghanaians living with HIV are women, whilst four (4) out of five (5) new infections, in young people aged fifteen (15) to twenty-four (24) years, are adolescent girls and young women. It is extremely troubling that adolescent girls and young women account for twenty-eight percent (28%) of total HIV new infections in the country,โ€ he said.

Hon. Yakubu also lamented the impact of COVID-19 in the fight against HIV/AIDS. โ€œCOVID-19 has disrupted HIV testing, prevention and treatment services in Ghana. It is for this reason that the Ghana Health Service swiftly instituted multi-month dispensing of HIV drugs to prevent frequent visits to hospitals by persons living with HIV. However, the intervention was quickly undermined by supply chain challenges, leading to commodity shortages, and further reducing access to services.โ€

Nonetheless, he is optimistic that, ending AIDS is highly possible and within reach, if we apply the current knowledge and tools available to us, whilst every person takes responsibility for preventing new HIV infections.

He added that, the nationโ€™s diligent pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals should position us favourably to ending the inequalities fuelled by AIDS and other pandemics.

โ€œFor us to end AIDS, we must eliminate inequalities and discrimination in every form of its manifestation, such as domestic and gender-based violence, harmful, outmoded traditional practices like widowhood rites and child marriage,โ€ he said. โ€œThe promotion of girl child education must be an integral part of reducing gender inequality, as the completion of secondary school by girls is reported to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women by some fifty percent (50%).โ€

According to him, the Free Senior High School (Free SHS) Policy has not only achieved higher enrolment of girls, but will ultimately contribute to a significant reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, if they adopt and maintain risk-reduction behaviours, which they are more likely to do.

๐‘ณ๐’‚๐’–๐’๐’„๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐‘ต๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’ ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฝ ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐‘จ๐‘ฐ๐‘ซ๐‘บ ๐‘บ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’„ ๐‘ท๐’๐’‚๐’, 2021-2025

As part of the governmentโ€™s efforts in strategizing to combat HIV/AIDS, a National HIV and AIDS plan has been launched for 2021 to 2025. This plan seeks to reduce new infections and AIDS deaths by eighty-five percent (85%), as well as eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

To achieve this, the plan will ensure that prevention, testing and treatment are given as a comprehensive package through standard models of differentiated services, to ensure that groups, communities and individuals receive tailor-made services that meet their specific needs.

The plan requires reaching the 95-95-95 fast-track testing and treatment targets by 2025: 95% of all persons living with HIV in the country must be diagnosed; 95% of the people diagnosed must be placed on anti-retroviral treatment; and 95% of people on anti-retroviral treatment must be virally suppressed.

The Ghana AIDS Commission Northern Regional Technical Coordinator, Nuhu Musah, anchored on achieving epidemic control, by accelerating progress to achieve the fast-track targets 95-95-95 by 2025, adding that, we must work to reduce new infection among the general population; key population; adolescent girls and young women and men and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

โ€œThis is what Ending Inequalities. End AIDS and End Epidemics should mean and this we must do,โ€ he stressed.

Hon. Yakubu harnessed the opportunity to thank the funding partners; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, PEPFAR and the UN Agencies, for their continued financial and technical support.

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