The Upper East Region is grappling with a notable increase in new HIV infections among adolescents, sounding an alarm for intensified efforts to address the root causes and provide targeted support to this vulnerable group.
The Regional HIV/AIDS Focal Person, Sulemana Majeed, says the HIV prevalence among adolescents is between 1.8 to 2.0 percent.
Mr. Majeed, who expressed this concern, says the future of adolescents in the region looks bleak if pragmatic measures are not taken to reduce the prevalence rate.
“The cause for worry is that the future generation, the adolescents whom we feel should stay negative and maintain their status because they are the productive force for the future, are those who are getting the new infection.”
The worrying aspect, according to Mr. Majeed, is that “it is not even the late adolescents; it is early adolescents between 10 to 14 years who are getting infected with the virus.”
He attributed the growing trend to the lack of education on HIV, ignorance, and the failure of the young ones to resist peer pressure on early sex. With a population of over 1 million, the Regional HIV/AIDS Focal Person says over 7000 people in the Upper East Region are estimated to have been infected with the virus, but about 5000 still take medications at health facilities.
The rest, he said, have stopped taking the drugs because they felt better a few months after they were put on medication; some travelled without informing the facilities, and some might have died, not because of HIV but because of accidents.
He spoke to the media after a health walk in commemoration of World AIDS Day (WAD). The day, which is observed on December 1 in remembrance of persons who had lost their lives to the then-ravaging HIV and AIDS menace, was celebrated over the weekend due to the 39th National Farmers Day scheduled on December 1.
This year’s theme for the WAD celebration was “Let Communities Lead,” and it is intended to inspire persons who are infected and most affected by HIV and AIDS to take up roles and initiatives that can help end the disease as a public health concern by 2030.
The health walk was organized by the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), in collaboration with the Network of Persons Living with HIV (NAP+), and other stakeholders. The organizers used the occasion to, among other things, create more awareness on HIV Self-Testing (HIVST).
The National Public Relations Officer of GHANET, Patrick Anamoo, said Ghana has now included blood-based methods of HIVST owing to the successful evaluations of the oral method. “CheckNOW is a blood-based method of HIVST that gives test results in just 15 minutes. It is based on a 3rd generation HIVST technology which detects HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies in a fingerstick blood sample,” he explained.
Mr. Anamoo expressed confidence that the multiplication of HIVST testing options will help Ghana achieve the first 95 of the 95-95-95 UNAIDS targets. The Upper East Regional Chair of NAP+ says stigma remains a challenge to the fight to reduce the virus.
Credit: Citi News