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Health advocates stress importance of voluntary HIV Testing at Ho Health Walk marking 20 years of antiretroviral therapy in Ghana

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By Jones Anlimah

Figures from the Ghana Health Service indicate that approximately 12,000 people succumbed to HIV-related illnesses last year, despite the life-saving benefits of Antiretroviral therapy (ART).

The use of ART has been pivotal, averting an estimated 9,000 deaths annually. Health Professionals and advocates are therefore emphasizing the importance of voluntary HIV testing for early detection and effective management of the virus.

This message was prominently conveyed during a health walk at Ho, in the Volta Region, to commemorate 20 years of the introduction of ART in Ghana.

More than 200,000 people have so far been put on Antiretroviral therapy since it was introduced in the country in 2003 after 17 years of being in the wilderness. Currently, there are about 150, 000 people on the therapy to help manage their HIV status.

According to officials from the Ghana Health Service, there are about 330, 095 people living with HIV out of which about 65 percent have been identified.

The health walk was to commemorate the use of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), in the country for the past 20 years. It was on the theme “Celebrating the Success of Antiretroviral Therapy in Ghana.”

Members of the military in Ho, health professionals, health workers, and activists participated in the health walk in the principal street of Ho, amidst brass band music and sharing of condoms to the public. Participants later converged on Ho Jubile Park for some aerobics.

The Ho municipal chief executive Mr Divine Bosson said issues of HIV/AIDS should be seen as a disaster issue and addressed with all seriousness.

The President of the Ghana HIV & AIDS Network, Mr Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, appealed to government to commit adequate resources towards efforts to ending HIV by 2030. “We call on government to ensure that the national HIV/AIDS FUND becomes operational and government redeems its promise of a one hundred million Dollars seed money towards the Fund. It is very important because we can not rely only on donor resources.”, he appealed.

President of the Ghana Network of Persons Living with HIV, Elsie Ayeh, urged people living with HIV to encourage others to get tested rather than spreading the virus. This according to her will ensure an early and effective management of spread of the virus. “You have no right to be affecting others. there is a law against willful transmission of HIV and that law has to be made to work. The best decision and the best step one can ever take is testing, knowing our status and going on treatment as early as possible.”, she remarked.

The Programme Manager for the National AIDS/STI, Control Programme, (NACP), Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, highlighted the significant strides made in the fight against HIV, while also calling for increased awareness and proactive measures.

“For those we have identified, we have put about 69 percent of them on treatment and about 89 percent are also put on other virus mechanisms to help break the transmission from one person to the other. we should protect and consolidate this progress. so our celebration is to project the benefits and the values of Antiretroviral Therapy towards the development of our nation.”, Mr Addo noted.

Advocates underscored that knowing one’s HIV status through voluntary testing is crucial for early intervention, which can dramatically improve health outcomes and quality of life. They urged more Ghanaians to get tested, emphasizing that early detection and consistent ART use are key to managing HIV effectively.

The event not only celebrated the progress made in the past two decades but also served as a platform to remind the public of the ongoing challenges in the fight against HIV.

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