Social protection services must be available to people affected by AIDS

Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), has underscored the need to offer social protection services to women and children affected by AIDS. He stated that, despite progress in HIV response, one of the most neglected areas of resource allocation in the HIV response was impact mitigation and social protection for persons rendered vulnerable by AIDS. This was critical because AIDS is projected to have orphaned over 230,000 children, he added. Dr Atuahene made the call at 2023 World AIDS Day National Durbar held in Accra by the Ghana AIDS Commission. World AIDS Day is observed on December 1, every year. It is a day when people around the world unite to show their support for people living with and affected by HIV, as well as remember those who have died because of AIDS. The 2023 celebration on the theme; 'Let Communities Lead' is a reminder that the world can end AIDS, with communities leading the way. Dr Atuahene noted that children orparned by AIDS needed basic necess ities including clothing, food and nutrition, education, health, and an enabling environment for healthy growth. 'It is, therefore, imperative to provide socio-economic impact mitigation assistance and social protection support to HIV affected households that assure livelihoods of adult members and guarantee access to essential services to orphans and vulnerable children,' he stated. He said Ghana was making considerable progress in eliminating AIDS as a public health threat. Since 2003, the number of anti-retroviral treatment locations has increased from three to 745, which are spread across all the 16 regions of the country. According to Dr Atuahene HIV treatment was now integrated into the primary healthcare system, with more options for stable people living with HIV (PLHIV) to pick up their medications at CHPS compounds. He said new advanced treatment technologies, like long-acting drugs, have become more available on the market, and was optimistic that Ghana would provide them to consumers soon. 'W e now have the tools to end AIDS and achieve epidemic control by 2030. However, a lot of work needed to be done to address the key gaps in the national response. Dr. Atuahene emphasised the importance of addressing bottlenecks to speed progress toward the 95-95-95 goal, as well as ensuring primary HIV prevention among the population, noting that casual heterosexual sex was projected to contribute to more than 74 per cent of new infections in the country. He urged the government to address the socioeconomic impact of HIV as soon as possible and to implement social protection measures for HIV-affected households. The national durbar organized by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) also saw the launch of a short code *9898# on MTN and Vodafone telecommunication networks to enable individuals and groups to donate to the HIV Fund. Mrs Frema Opare, the Chief of Staff, who spoke at the event, urged the GAC to leverage its wealth of experience in public health response to bolster on-going efforts against emerging pan demics and how they relate to HIV and AIDS. Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, Executive Oversight Minister GAC and Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), said Ghana's national response fell short of expectations and potential, and urged all to contribute to the collective effort. The Deputy Minister of Health, NAP+ Ghana representative, Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Executive Oversight Minister of GAC and Minister of MESTI, traditional leaders, among other dignitaries were present at the durbar. Source: Ghana News Agency