The need to offer support for the increasing number of orphaned children due to HIV and AIDS, in the country, has been a matter of great concern to families, organisations, child rights groups and government for quite some time now.
The 2018 HIV and AIDS National Estimates and Projections report, released by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), indicates that orphaned children due to HIV and AIDS, had reached 226,463.
These children undergo tremendously and largely unmitigated problems, living as they do in a society already undermined by underdevelopment.
The GAC’s resolve to generate funds to offer support to such orphans, can only be considered as another effort to complement initiatives aimed at promoting child development.
Acting Director General of GAC, Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, speaking at the function to release the report in Accra, last Wednesday, said the commission has decided to establish the National AIDS Fund, which according to him, is in the process of operationalisation.
He indicated that “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.”
We are delighted that the commission has decided to target the affected children, some who have been abandoned by their families after the death of their parents, for support, to enable them to grow into responsible adults.
Just like children whose parents are alive, those who are orphaned by HIV and AIDS, need psychological and socio-economic support, especially from government.
This has become essential, because the Ghanaian extended family system that used to take care of children, especially those who have lost their parents, irrespective of their status or background, is gradually collapsing due to modernisation and poverty.
We also need to stop the stigmatisation and discrimination against children orphaned by HIV and AIDS, to enable them live to their full potential.
Mr Atuahene revealed that adult HIV prevalence in the country stood at 1.69 per cent, with estimated AIDS deaths across all ages at 14,181.
While finding ways of tackling the problem of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS, we have to avert our minds to the dangers of the epidemic to national development.
The national estimated number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country has reached 334,714, with 19,931 new infections according to the report.
The Greater Accra Region as indicated by the GAC report, 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 PLHIV (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 report cited the Ashanti Region as the second with the highest HIV prevalence (75,675).
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.
Aside other factors, another serious demission of HIV in the country is that, it has become urbanised, associated with high-risk sexual interaction, monetisation of sex, migration, especially by the youth to major centres and unwillingness to undergo HIV test, accounting for the rise in new infections.
Interventions, including public campaigns on the disease, condom use, school engagements, adherence to treatment to suppress the virus among others, are some of the ways out.
The gloomy picture on HIV prevalence in the country, suggests we need to do more to stem the tides on the disease, in addition to establishing a fund to support affected persons, especially children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.