The Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) has urged pastors and other religious leaders to refer persons living with HIV (PLWHIV) to Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) centres at various public health facilities throughout the country.
It also asked pastors of prayer camps to whom some of these PLHIVs go for prayers for cure of HIV and AIDS, to discourage them from doing so.
The Eastern Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Technical Support unit of the GCA, Mr Ebenezer Appiah Agyekum Abrokwah, made this known at a workshop for health reporters here on Friday.
The workshop was aimed at enhancing the skills of the media practitioners in reporting on health issues, especially Malaria, HIV and AIDs, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Nutrition, Maternal Health and Family Planning.
Penplusbytes, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) organised it as part of the People for Health Project (P4H) being implemented in collaboration with SEND Ghana with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mr Abrokwah noted that the practice of PLWHIVs shunning the ART centres was hindering progress being made to achieve agenda 90-90-90 set by the UNAIDS to help countries to eradicate AIDS by 2030.
According to him, abandoning the life sustaining ART drugs for prayer camps was risky as this had led to premature death of some PLWHIVs.
He said there had been scientific evidence that the ART treatment suppressed the viral load in the affected individual and had in some instances tested negative.
“However, there has not been any scientific evidence to prove that these pastors who claimed to have cure for HIV have been able to cure a single PLHIV with prayers or traditional medicines,” he said.
Mr Abrokwah stated that as part of measures to tackle the problem, his outfit visited some prayer camps in the region and it emerged that many of the pastors had little or no knowledge about HIV/AIDs.
He said the pastors were educated and trained on HIV/AIDS and were encouraged to rather refer PLHIVs to ART centres since that was the only way to ensure good health for PLHIVs and be able to achieve the agenda 90-90-90.
“The Agenda 90-90-90 has targets that by 2020, 90 per cent of PLHIVs will know their HIV status and that 90 per cent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral treatment therapy and have viral suppression,” he said.
For his part, the Programmes Director for Penplusbytes, Mr Jerry Sam, called on the government to commit more resources towards interventions to end diseases that were afflicting its citizens, especially in the area of HIV/AIDs and malaria.
He said for a long time Ghana had depended on the global agencies to fund many of its interventions, hence there was the need for government to channel its own resources into the health sector as most global donors were pulling out.
FROM AMA TEKYIWAA AMPADU AGYEMAN, KOFORIDUA