The Greater Accra Region recorded the highest number of new HIV infections last year with about 4,593 people contracting the disease.
Currently, the region leads with the most number of persons living with HIV (77,132) across the country and though out of the figure, about 28,000 people were using anti-retroviral (ART), close to 3,000 people died in the region of the disease in 2018.
The 2018 HIV/AIDS National Estimates and Projections released by the Ghana AIDs Commission (GAC) in Accra yesterday, showed that 2.06 per cent of the adult population in the region were at risk of the virus.
The report, which pegged national estimated number of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country at 334,714, with 19,931 new infections, cited the Ashanti Region as the second with the highest HIV prevalence (75,675).
Of the top 20 districts in the country with highest HIV prevalence, the Lower Manya Krobo in the Eastern Region topped with 5.56 per cent, followed by Tano South (5.35 per cent) in the Ahafo Region, with Atiwa West in the Eastern Region recording the lowest prevalence rate (3.05 per cent).
Acting Director General of GAC, Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, throwing more light on the situation, said adult HIV prevalence in the country stood at 1.69 per cent with estimated AIDS deaths across all ages at 14,181.
Nonetheless, based on the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target by 2020, he said of the total number of PLHIVs in the country, about 185,000 people had been diagnosed, 113,000 put on ART and 75,000 had attained viral suppression.
“This is where we are and we need to do more to achieve the targets. We may not reach it by 2020 but we have put in place measures to achieve it shortly after the deadline,” he stated.
Of particular concern to Mr Atuahene was the increasing number of orphaned children due to HIV/ AIDS, which had reached 226,463, indicating the commission’s resolve to offer support to such orphans.
“The commission recognises the need to support such children, particularly those who have been abandoned by families after their parents died of HIV but we are constrained by funds.
“However, we have decided to establish the National AIDS Fund and it’s in the process of operationalisation, once it is done, such children will be highly considered.”
Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programme Manager for the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), said new data gathered showed increase of new infections in urban centres where key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men etc) were responsible for the spread of the infection were mostly located.
“HIV in Ghana is now urbanised,” he said, citing the tendency to indulge in high-risk sexual interaction, monetisation of sex, migration, especially by the youth to major centres and unwillingness to undergo HIV test as accounting for the rise in new infections.
Dr Ayisi Addo, however, mentioned interventions including intensifying public campaigns on the disease, particularly on the popular ABC – Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condom Use, school engagements, adherence to treatment to suppress the virus among others to achieve the global agenda.
“We want to make it clear that there is no cure yet for HIV and people infected will have to adhere to treatment which is free instead of resorting to other medications which is costly and pose higher risk to patients.
“We also need to stop the stigma and discrimination against infected people to enable them live to their full potential,” he advised.
Data Quality Assurance Manager of the GAC, Mr Isaiah Doe Kwao, on his part, was not happy the country could not boast of a much decentralised data collection system on HIV/AIDs to inform decision making.
He expressed hope that by 2025, the country would have reached 95 per cent of adults in need of receiving ART treatment.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH AND DANIEL ASANTE