Ghana needs to increase action to enable her to achieve the ambitious 90-90-90 HIV/AIDS target by 2020, Dr Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye, the Chief Executive Officer of the West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF), has said.
She said with just about a year to the target date, Ghana had so far achieved 65-37-64 of the target which, “is not so good, looking at the time limit”.
“With the trend we are going it doesn’t look like we will be able to reach our 90-90-90 target by 2020 if something doesn’t change,” Dr Vanderpuye said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of the Annual Review Meeting of Non-State Actors in Health (NSA) held recently in Accra.
The 90-90-90 target introduced by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS in 2013 is intended to ensure that by 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV would be diagnosed to know their status, 90 per cent of those who are diagnosed would be on antiretroviral treatment and 90 per cent of those on antiretroviral would have their viral load suppressed.
The strategy was to get the HIV epidemic under control based on the principle of universal testing and treatment to ensure that persons with HIV were identified early and put on treatment so they would become virally suppressed.
That would, in effect, ensure the prevention of HIV transmission and reduce the prevalent rate in countries.
Dr Vanderpuye said there was the need to ensure the availability of enough test kits and health workers to reach the people everywhere to enhance the attainment of the first 90.
She said the country should not only concentrate on health facility level testing but rather take a patient or client service approach in reaching the people.
The civil society organisations could be partnered in this regard so they could reach out to the people in the communities and get them tested.
Dr Vanderpuye said Ghane was not doing so well with the second 90 target, which says that 90 per cent of those who tested positive to HIV should be linked and enrolled onto treatment.
This was due to many factors, particularly stigma and discrimination that still persisted in the Ghanaian community.
“Stigmatisation was keeping people from accessing treatment even after they have tested HIV positive and so such people go into denial and stay off,” she said.
She said the issue of accessibility was also making it difficult for people to travel long distances to access treatment within a health facility.
Dr Vanderpuye, therefore, called for the involvement of the CHPS compounds in the dispensing of antiretroviral medicines so nurses with supervision of other high level personnel could initiate people on the antiretroviral (ART).
“To close that gap we need to get the services to the people at the community level and we need to fight stigma for the people to feel comfortable coming to health facility to be enrolled unto treatment.”
Dr Vanderpuye said the last 90 target that directs HIV persons who were in care to be viral suppressed, was also facing a bigger challenge because of fewer viral load machines in the country.
She said currently Ghana had only nine viral load machines placed within the teaching and regional hospitals, with the Upper West Region without one.
She said there were currently 330 ART centres around the country, which send samples to be tested by the nine machines.
Dr Vanderpuye suggested that Ghana should consider using the over 100 Gene expert machines, which were originally brought in to check TB, to check for viral load with a little modification.
Meanwhile, members of the NSA resolved at their end of year meeting to help support the Government to increase momentum and advocacy in the delivery of quality healthcare to the people.
They, however, urged the Government to commit more funds to the fight against HIV now that donor funding was dwindling.