PIX: Participants at the Workshop by Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) on Self Testing Project in Kumasi
THE NATIONAL AIDS Control Program (NACP) under the Ministry of the Health have begun plans to roll out a self testing module where every Ghanaian could have access to a kit at the pharmacy or at any health facility to test to know their HIV statuses at the house or home.
Addressing participants including media persons, assembly members and other HIV support staff across the country at a two day stakeholder forum which was organized by the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) on Self Testing Project in Kumasi, Dr Stephen Ayisi-Addo, Program Manager at NACP said the project is intended to properly identify persons living with HIV and treat them with antiretroviral medicines.
This measure, he noted, would enable them to provide counseling and treatment regimes to the affected persons in environments that would be confidential.
‘’The plan by the NACP is to ensure we make self testing kits available at all health centers including pharmacy shops so that every Ghanaian could get access to one and go home to test by using the strips provided alongside the platform to know their status’’, Dr Ayisi-Addo noted while demonstrating.
The Program Manager said currently about 350, 000 persons were living with HIV in the country, adding that these persons could spread the disease across the regions of Ghana.
Dr Ayisi-Addo noted that when these persons are properly identified and treated they would not spread the disease further.
He also stressed the importance of locating the affected persons so that when they are found and treated the target of eliminating new infections and the disease in Ghana by 2030 would be possible.
‘’Our target is to trace and provide treatment for at least 90% persons who are HIV positive and by 2025 we would be pushing to identify 95% of persons known to be HIV positive with our desire to completely treat and eliminate the disease from the system by 2030’’, Dr Ayisi-Addo posited.
Stigma and others:
The Program Manager noted that the biggest challenge inhibiting the Ghana AIDS Commission and its allied health groups has been stigma.
He said many people still have misconceptions about HIV and have since the disease broke out in 1986 been behaving wrongly to persons who accidentally get infected with the disease.
The Program Manager disclosed that some persons still believe that eating, sharing towels and sitting with persons who have HIV makes one prone to contracting the same.
Others, he said have sent relatives into early grave because they treated them bad and ostracized them because they got infected with HIV/AIDS
The NACP Manager said there has not been any cure for HIV or AIDS and added that research was still ongoing to identify a cure for the same.
Dr Ayisi Addo also disclosed that many who could have received treatment at the hospitals have been deceived to shun medical care and attend care at herbal homes or churches with some dying for their refusal to access health care at the hospital.
On his part, Anthony Ashinyo, Deputy Programs Manager at NACP said the public could prevent themselves from contracting or getting infected with HIV/AIDS through proper behavioral lifestyles.
Apart from sticking to single partners whose status they may have knowledge about, the Deputy Programs Manager said the public could use condoms if they cannot abstain from sex.
He noted that unprotected sex was aiding the spread of the disease, adding that it was important to know the status of a person before engaging in sex with them.
‘’It is important that you always use condoms when you cannot attest to the status of your partner and condoms should always be worn in the proper way where little space is left for the release of the fluid during sex’’, Dr Ashinyo noted.
The Deputy Manager at NACP said it was crucial that the media allocate time for HIV counselors and health persons to educate the public about HIV and other
Story By Michael Ofosu-Afriyie,