Ghana’s first lady Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo is optimistic that a successful execution of the National Acceleration Plan for Paediatric HIV Services will fast-track the implementation of critical services and ensure that 90% of adolescents and children living with HIV receive treatment by 2020.
To this end, the First Lady indicated that in collaboration with Ghana AIDS Commission, working under the OAFLAD Chapter, has held Health Outreaches to advocate for accelerated elimination of mother to child transmission through the National Acceleration Plan for Paediatric HIV Services.
The First Lady made this known on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, when she delivered the keynote address of the Co-Chairs of the 13th INTEREST conference in Accra.
According to the First Lady, the implementation of Health Outreaches in Ghana to advocate for accelerated elimination of mother to child transmission during the 2018 World AIDS Day were successful enough to be used as a case study by ABOTT to get other countries to conduct similar outreaches.
In addition, she said, “we launched the Free to Shine Campaign, in January this year with the objective to accelerate the pace of elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, end AIDS in children and keep mothers alive and healthy.”
She, however, stated that whilst there have been remarkable progress against HIV and HIV related deaths, children seem left behind as figures in 2017 estimated that 180,000 new infections among children occurred globally.
The First Lady held that making anti-retroviral drugs available to all HIV positive pregnant women, is a key step to eliminating mother to child transmission and called for support for these women with regards to adhering to their medicines to prevent transmission to their babies.
She also pointed out that, “pregnant women who are HIV negative early in the pregnancy should be retested before delivery. This will ensure women who seroconvert and become HIV positive later in the pregnancy, receive appropriate treatment. It is well known that HIV seroconversion later in pregnancy is associated with high transmission rate to the baby.”
She continued that, “every child born to an HIV positive mother, should also be screened for HIV within the first six weeks of life and followed up according to national protocol. Any child who tests positive at any time, during the follow-up, should be initiated on antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible.”
“I charge the Ghana Health Service, to have a reporting system that identifies every single infant who is infected with HIV. We need to understand whether the mother attended antenatal clinic, tested for HIV, was offered and adhered to antiretroviral drugs and practiced exclusive breastfeeding. This will fine tune our programme, as we move towards elimination of paediatric HIV,” she added.
Whilst appealing to members of participating countries to adopt the Ghana example, the First lady was confident that several other activities planned by stakeholders with regard to this campaign to be rolled out in the course of the year in Ghana.