End to inequality is end to AIDS—President

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says Ghana can record significant success in its fight against HIV and AIDS by eliminating inequalities and discrimination in every form of its manifestation.

“For us to end AIDS, we must eliminate inequalities and discrimination in every form of its manifestation such as domestic and gender based violence, harmful outmoded traditional practices like widowhood rites and child marriage,” he said

President Akufo-Addo said gender inequality, stigma and discrimination prevented people from accessing prevention and treatment services.

He said gender inequality was a major reason for the disproportionate disease burden on women and girls.

The President made the comments on Wednesday at a National Durbar organised by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) to commemorate the 2021 World AIDS Day in Accra.

It was on the theme: “End inequalities, End AIDS, End pandemics.”

Nana Akufo-Addo said two out of three Ghanaians living with HIV were women, whilst four out of five new infections in young people aged 15 to 24 years were adolescent girls and young women.

He said it was extremely troubling that adolescent girls and young women accounted for 28 per cent of total HIV new infections in the country.

The President said promotion of girl-child education had played an integral part in reducing gender inequality and the completion of Senior High School (SHS) by girls was reported to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women by some 50 per cent.

He said the Free SHS policy had not only achieved a high enrolment of girls but would also contribute to a significant reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women.

President Akufo-Addo said Africa had the knowledge, tools and partnerships to end AIDS, adding that, Government was fully committed to ending AIDS by 2030.

He said the termination of AIDS was highly possible and within reach if Ghana applied the current knowledge and tools available, even as every person took responsibility for preventing HIV infections.

Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, Director-General, GAC, said at the end of 2020, Ghana’s incidence-prevalence ratio was about 5.5 per cent, which was higher than the threshold of 3 per cent.

He said achieving the epidemic transition milestone of incidence-prevalence ratio of 3 per cent or less would require rapid or steep decline in new infections and AIDS deaths by more than 85 per cent in line with the new National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (NSP) targets.

Mr Atuahene said out of the estimated 102,000 men aged 15 years and older living with HIV, less than half (49,667 or 47.8 per cent) of them were on anti-retroviral treatment compared with 69.4 per cent of women.

He said the AIDS epidemic could be hugely undermined if the existing social disparities in society were not addressed.

The Director-General said GAC would strengthen partnership and collaboration with these and the private sector, traditional authorities, religious groups, professional bodies, civil society organisations and individuals to end AIDS.

Dr Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyamfi, Presidential advisor on HIV and AIDS, said HIV was not just a health condition but also, a development issue.

She said therefore, whatever affected the country’s development in one area or another, invariably affected everyone.

Dr Adu-Gyamfi said tackling inequalities would advance human rights of the poor, adding that Ghana needed to protect the rights of everyone and pay particular attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

She urged the youth, especially adolescents and young women to follow all preventive measures because they were effective, simple, and accessible.

Madam Stephanie Sullivan, United States Ambassador to Ghana, said preventing new HIV infection would require communication, education, and a reduction in stigma and discrimination of HIV infection.

“We won’t defeat this disease by ignoring or shaming people living with HIV or driving them underground. We won’t defeat this disease by ostracizing people in our communities. We will defeat this disease by working together and tackling it as a community – and a global community at that,” she said.

She said solutions for ending AIDS came not only from groundbreaking medication and treatments, but also from working together, communicating, and educating people to minimize new infections and support those living with HIV.

Source: GNA

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