A total of 72,429 people in the Ashanti Region are estimated to be living with HIV, according to the Ghana Aids Commission 2022 report.
Out of this number, only 26,006 are currently on Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication at health facilities, leaving a gap of 46,421 who cannot be accounted for in terms of antiretroviral uptake. These individuals are either unaware of their status or have defaulted on ARV treatment.
Mr. Dennis Bandoh, the Deputy Ashanti Regional Focal Person for HIV/AIDS, disclosed to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the region also recorded 4,618 new cases at the end of the third quarter of 2023, representing a 2.1 percent increase over last year.
HIV testing is conducted in two categories – Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), mainly for pregnant women, and HIV testing services for non-pregnant women and men, he explained.
Mr. Bandoh stated that a total of 62,835 pregnant women had been tested under the PMTCT category, with 681 testing positive. Additionally, 3,937 people tested positive out of 51,940 screened under the HIV testing services category.
“The key challenge we are facing is getting men to test voluntarily because men are mostly hesitant to check their status,” he noted.
Some males believe that once their pregnant wives or partners test negative, they are automatically negative. He explained that there were cases where sexual partners had different statuses without knowing, emphasizing the importance of testing regardless of their partners’ status.
Mr. Bandoh highlighted that early initiation of treatment can halt the progression of the virus to the AIDS stage, urging individuals who test positive to seek treatment at health facilities convenient for them.
Literature and available data indicate that men having sex with men, female commercial sex workers, long-distance drivers, and uniformed men are mostly at risk, he said.
“Most men in the gay community have sex with their partners without protection, thereby exposing them to the virus. Men in uniform and long-distance drivers, by the nature of their work, are often deployed to places far from home and also work at night, exposing them to the temptation of having multiple partners and unprotected sex,” Mr. Bandoh noted.
He spoke of innovative strategies adopted by the Ghana Health Service to increase testing, including index testing, where people who have tested positive are encouraged to send their close family and sexual partners for testing.
HIV self-test kits have also been made available in all health facilities where one can walk in for the kits.