The University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) has, since Wednesday, December 1, added Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) to its crop of services.
The Centre, gearing towards full operationalization by the close of 2021, is set to offer HIV infected clients and affected families, treatment, care, support, counselling services and linkages needed to improve the quality of their lives through world-class healthcare experience.
Dr Darius Osei, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre, said, “all clients and families are welcome to visit UGMC to access ART and counselling services. A well organized, trained and competent team of health professionals would attend to clients.”
Dr Osei was speaking at the launch of the 2021 World AIDS Day celebration on the theme: “End inequalities, end AIDS, end pandemics.”
He said the theme was focused on ending inequalities that drove HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, thus ending the HIV pandemic by 2030 was a great step that could be achieved by ensuring equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care as well as giving the Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) access to COVID-19 vaccination and related services.
He said care of the PLHIV had become crucial especially in this era of COVID-19 pandemic. Being a high-risk group and vulnerable to infections, COVID-19 has taken a toll on the health of persons living with HIV leading to unpleasant outcomes when infected.
“The prolonged impact of COVID-19 during lock-down periods and restrictions have put a strain on ongoing HIV care intentions, partly restricting accessibility to HIV care, treatment, counselling and support while disrupting HIV testing process and referral systems.”
Dr Osei said in 2020, the World Health Organisation indicated that globally, 37.7million persons were living with HIV of which 1.5 million were new infections and only 27.5 million had access to antiretroviral therapy.
He said in Ghana, the HIV sentinel survey conducted in 2019 reported a median national HIV prevalence of 2.0 per cent and same among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics, and of the 16 regions surveyed, Greater Accra was the second-highest HIV prevalence of 3.2 per cent in Ghana.”
This, he said, was a wake-up call for everyone to know their status because the enormous benefit of ART was evident in clients seen today living positively with HIV. Access to care intervention since HIV was first diagnosed in Ghana had been progressive, however, there was a lot more to be done.
To commemorate the day, the UGMC in collaboration with the Ayawaso West Municipal Directorate is also offering a free health screening exercise including Tuberculosis (TB), HIV and Hepatitis screen for people to know their status of health which was key to early interventions.
Dr. Nyonuku Akosua Baddoo, Head of Clinical Care, National AIDS Control Programme, said there were gender and financial inequalities in access to health care across the globe despite progress in many aspects of the global HIV response.
She said inequalities were not naturally occurring but were the result of policy and programmatic actions that divided ather than included everyone, saying, “we can only win the fight against the pandemic by ending inequalities and providing client-Centered health care.”
Dr Baddoo said according to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, if leaders fail to tackle inequalities, the world could face 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths over the next 10 years.
Dr Baddoo commended the UGMC for coming onboard to provide HIV care in a bid to contribute to improving access to HIV care so Ghana could play her part in the global targets of ending inequalities, AIDS and pandemics.
Dr Louisa Matey, Ayawaso West Municipal Health Director, said the COVID-19 pandemic, had not stopped the propagation of other infectious and non-infectious diseases of public health importance such as HIV, TB, Yellow Fever but rather gradually gaining grounds probably due to a shift in system focus to the new “king on the block; COVID-19.”
She asked health workers not to lose sight of the fact that HIV and other diseases of public health importance could not wait, be relegated to the back, be forgotten because they were not waiting. “If we do that, we probably will have to live and fight another pandemic of our own making.”
Dr Matey commended UGMC for adding ART to its services and encouraged the Centre to build a system culture of differentiated service delivery and build a robust health education and promotion unit that plans and executives unprecedented health promotion services on diseases and conditions including HIV/AIDS.