20,068 new HIV cases, 13,616 deaths recorded in 2019 – AIDS Commission

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Data from the Ghana AIDS Commission indicates that 20,068 new HIV/AIDS cases were recorded in the country during 2019 from the 19,000 recorded in 2018. Out of this, AIDS-related death was estimated at 13,616.

Children between 0-14 years constituted 2,972 cases, representing 15 percent of the new cases recorded; the youthful population of between 15 – 24 years numbered 5,613 which represents 28 percent. Out of the youthful population, 1,205 were males while 4,409 were females.

In total, persons living with HIV/AIDS in the country are 342,307; males number 122,321 representing 36 percent while females are 219,986, representing 64 percent.

Apart from the deaths, which recorded a decline from the 14,000 recorded in 2018, all the other figures increased. The Commission noted that issues of stigma remain key in the fight against the spread of AIDS in the country, as the stigma index among people living with HIV is 18.1 percent. The index represents the level of perceived stigma and discrimination experienced among people living with HIV.

The GAC is worried that if care is not taken, these figures might see some drastic and dire changes due to the impact of COVID-19 on the management of cases in the country.  The Commission noted that the supply of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection has faced some challenges due to supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19.

Also, the imposition of the partial lockdown troubled some people living with HIV, as they could not embark on any meaningful economic activities to feed themselves – with some also losing their jobs. This has culminated in the inability of some of them to regularly take their drugs to keep healthy, because they may not be able to eat the requisite meal to support the drug’s efficacy.

A global study has indicated that if there is a disruption to the supply chain in the provision of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection for the next six months, there will be about 500,000 more deaths.

In Ghana, a survey conducted by the World Food Programme in 1,666 households of HIV/AIDS persons in four regions – Western, Central, Bono and Northern – indicated that 21 percent of the households had vulnerable people who were food insecure.

“For that matter, it will affect their health and their ability to take medications as well. All this will impact on our programmes by causing more havoc; so, it behoves us to intensify our campaign and interventions,” the Director for Technical Services at the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Fred Nana Poku, told the B&FT in an interview.

“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world, all attention has been geared toward the virus – relegating HIV/AIDS to the background. Both viruses need to be pursued without leaving anyone behind because both are national concerns. Also, we have come to realise that stigma is very prevalent despite the many works we have done. It has reduced, but not at the rate we expected. We want Ghanaians to change their attitude toward people living with HIV,” he said.

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