National HIV and AIDS Conference launched

Ghana is among five sub-Saharan Africa countries expected to reduce HIV prevalence among young people between the age 15-24 by more than 52 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the UNAIDS 2011 report.

The epidemic in Ghana is characterized as a low-level generalised epidemic with prevalence ranging from 11-18 percent among key populations.

Immunology Professor Isabella Quakyi of the School of Public health disclosed this at the launch of the third National HIV and AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) scheduled for 10-13 September in Accra.

Current HIV infection estimates show that in 2012, about 235,982 people, (101, 759 males and 134,223 females) are living with HIV in Ghana with 27, 734 being children.

She said an estimated 7,138 new infections, 11,655 AIDS and 852 new child infections were recorded in the same year.

The workshop is on the theme: "Utilizing Strategic Information for an Effective National Response,” and is expected to bring together implementing partners, development partners, policymakers and stakeholders in HIV and AIDS National response.

It is to provide a platform for stakeholders to share information and experiences, discuss results of key research and examine the implication for improving the quality of the national HIV and AIDS response and disseminate findings from relevant HIV and AIDS research undertaken in Ghana among others.

Prof Quakyi said the conference will focus on areas such as key populations- Research and best practice, Antiretroviral (ART) and clinical interventions, Gender and human right and HIV prevention.

The conference would also have four main tracks including the Social Sciences, Epidemiology and Basic Sciences, Clinical practices and Interventions and best practices.

She said despite national multi-sectoral strategies and expanded prevention interventions to cover more Ghanaians, there were still several challenges and noted that some 34,545 and 44,267 children were in need of treatment for HIV and AIDS.

“Stigma and discrimination against people living with or affected by HIV remains a challenge and impedes the uptake of HIV testing and adherence to treatment,” she added and said that it was against this background that the conference was very necessary.

Mr Badu Sakordie, Head of Disease Surveillance of the Ghana Health Service, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Health, said the Ministry had a policy to reduce HIV among the general population as well as reversing the trend.

To this end, he said, the National AIDS Commission first developed a short term plan for the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS in 1987 and also developed two medium term plans from 1989 -1993 and from 1996-2000.

Accordingly, the National AIDS Control Programme has also developed the HIV and AIDS component of the MOH’s five year Ghana Health Sector Strategy Framework (2002-2006 and 2007-20120), and this has been guiding the programme in its implementation of the Multi-Sectoral National AIDS response.

These strategies, he said, were aimed at developing interventions to reduce the disease, provided care and services for persons living HIV and produce timely information on HIV and AIDs for Action as well as provide essential technical support to all Ministries.