Ghana: Time to Take HIV Treatment Serious

THE First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, yesterday lamented the fact that an estimated 3,400 new HIV infections among children under 14 years, has been recorded across the country in 2017.

Quoting from the UNAIDS report, the obviously worried First Lady called for support systems to be strengthened to ensure that infected pregnant women adhered to medication to prevent transmission to babies.

Mrs Akufo-Addo who was addressing the 13th International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis and Prevent Research in Resource Limited Settings, in Accra, yesterday, also asked that "every child born to an HIV positive mother should be screened for the disease within the first six weeks of life and follow up according to national protocol.

"Any child who tests positive at any time during the follow up should be initiated on anti-retroviral therapy as soon as possible.

"We need to understand whether the mother attended anti-natal clinic, tested for HIV, was offered and adhered to anti-retroviral drugs and practical exclusive breastfeeding so that we fine-tune our programme as we move towards elimination of paediatric HIV," she maintained.

The Ghanaian Times is stunned that Ghana is still recording high numbers of new HIV infections in children across the country.

What it means is that many of the pregnant women, who tested HIV positive, did not receive anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to child- transmission.

Perhaps, many of these pregnant women may not have had the opportunity to test for the HIV virus and be placed on the anti-retroviral treatment and may have infected their babies.

These situation calls for immediate measures to increase awareness campaigns to educate pregnant women, particularly, those who know their HIV status to do the needful to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

It is regrettable that Ghana who was tipped as far back as 2012 to be the first country on the African continent to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS has not as yet succeeded.

There has been significant success in reducing the number of new HIV infections among children globally since 2000 but, for children living with HIV, AIDs-related illnesses are still among the leading causes of infant mortality.

Although prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes are generally successful when implemented, there needs to be a greater scale-up of coverage, in addition to increasing early infant diagnosis after birth and during breastfeeding.

More needs to be done to support the prevention of HIV among vulnerable children and to address the unique antiretroviral treatment adherence challenges that affect children living with HIV.

We urge the Ghana AIDS Commission and all stakeholders to increase advocacy campaigns and address all the bottlenecks associated with service delivery to infected pregnant women to ensure that they adhered to medications to prevent transmission to babies.

We must regain the momentum and get back on track to become the first country in Africa, to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of HIV/AIDS.

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