‘Your voice is key to ending stigma and discrimination among people living with HIV: US Amb. Stephanie Sullivan to journalists’

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US Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan

The US Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan, has entreated journalists to continue rallying behind efforts to improve the lives of People Living with HIV (PLHIV), on the back of the ongoing campaign toward achieving the UNAIDS’ FastTrack 95-95-95 goal.

This campaign aims for 95 percent of the people living with HIV to know their positive status, 95 percent of those who test positive to be on sustained treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment to have suppressed their viral load to the point where they cannot transmit it to anybody else.

Ambassador Sullivan said the continued coverage of HIV issues “should be presented in a non-technical way, so that ordinary people like me can easily understand, will help address stigma and discrimination, and lead people to take advantage of available HIV services”.

She added that the U.S. government is deeply committed to expanding key populations’ access to quality, stigma-free, lifesaving HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services. “And with your help, through informed and informative media coverage, we can and will end stigma and discrimination, and also reach epidemic control!”

Addressing some selected journalists at the closing ceremony of a seven-week long PEPFAR ‘virtual media training on HIV’, she said the U.S. government is deeply committed to expanding key populations’ access to quality, stigma-free, lifesaving HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services.

She observed that the informed and informative media coverage on HIV by journalists can help end stigma and discrimination and also reach epidemic control.

She said an undetectable HIV viral load means those with this deadly disease cannot transmit it to anybody else.

“Undetectable means that a test cannot detect the virus in the blood of a person living with HIV, although extremely small amounts of HIV are still present. Someone who takes and stays on HIV treatment, and is undetectable for 6 or more continuous months, does not transmit the virus through sex.

“It also means the virus is being well-controlled by HIV medication. If a person with undetectable HIV stops their medications, however, the virus will return to a detectable level – which then increases the risk of transmission,” she said.

Ambassador Sullivan disclosed that since PEPFAR’s pivot to focus on achieving epidemic control in the Western Region, more than 4,500 new positive cases have been identified. Out this number, 95 percent of people who newly tested positive were linked to treatment.

Additionally, 73 percent of those on treatment had a suppressed viral load, with 60 percent receiving the more convenient Multi-Month Dispensing (MMD) of their anti-retroviral treatment.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is a programme that involves the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of State, and the Department of Defense (DOD).

“The U.S. government is delighted to offer initiatives such as this workshop, because, as we’ve seen in the past seven weeks, they are effective,” she added.

The virtual workshop among others highlighted PEPFAR’s efforts, achievements, support to the UNAIDS Fast-Track strategy of 95-95-95, and the importance of anti-stigmatisation reporting.

One of the participants, Patricia Bonsu – a freelance broadcast journalist said: “The great wealth of knowledge, shared experiences and awareness through the training will contribute to sustain the conversation on HIV and AIDS”.

The participating journalists for the virtual workshop were selected from across the country.

Media HealthLink, African Centre for Development Reporting, Ghana AIDS Commission, and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) were among partner organisations involved in the workshop.

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