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General News of Monday, 15 March 2010

Source: GNA

Ghana's HIV prevalence rate experiences 0.2 per cent increase

Accra, March 15, GNA - The national HIV prevalence suffered an increase from 1.7 per cent in 2008 to 1.9 in 2009 but experts say despite the increase, Ghana's epidemic was still on the decline. The highest prevalence rate was recorded among the 40 to 45 years and the least in the 15-19 years age group.

Prevalence among the youth between 15-24 years, used as a marker for new infection is 2.1 per cent.

Compared to the previous year, the highest prevalence was among the 25 to 29 year group and the least in the 15-19 year age group with prevalence among young persons 15-24 years, used as a marker for new infections was 1.9 per cent.

The median HIV prevalence, recorded among pregnant women, has also seen an increase from 2.2 per cent in 2008 to 2.9 per cent in 2009 with the sentinel site prevalence ranging from 0.7 per cent in North Tongu to 5.8 per cent in Koforidua and Agomenya.

Dr. Nii Akwei Addo, Programme Manager of National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), revealed these statistics at the launch of the 2009 HIV Sentinel Survey Report in Accra on Monday.

All the regions with the exception of Easter n Region recorded an increase in prevalence over 2008. Upper West Region recorded the highest increase from 1.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent representing 94 per cent. Regionally, Upper West Region is the only region showing an increasing trend in prevalence. The Eastern Region which was noted for high prevalence continues with the highest prevalence level of 4.2 per cent. Ashanti Region followed with 3.9 per cent, Greater Accra Region with 3.2 per cent, Western Region with 3.1 per cent Upper West Region with 3.1 per cent, Central Region with 3.0 per cent, Brong Ahafo Region with 2.9 per cent, Volta Region with 2.6 per cent, Upper East Region with 2.2 per cent and the Northern Region with 2.0 per cent.

An estimated 267,069 persons live with HIV and AIDS in Ghana out of which 25,666 are children. The Sentinel report recorded 25,531 new infections and 20,313 AIDS deaths were recorded with 2,566 being children. Dr. Addo noted that 91.8 per cent of the HIV positive samples were HIV type I and HIV type II was 5.2 per cent and dual infection of HIV types I and II was three per cent of the total positive samples.

Compared with the previous year, nearly 95 per cent of HIV positive samples were HIV type I with HIV type II recording 3.8 per cent and dual infection of types I and II was 1.7 per cent of the total positive samples. The 2009 HIV Sentinel Survey, which is 18th in the series, is a cross sectional survey targeting pregnant women attending anti natal clinics in selected anti natal clinic sites in Ghana.

The annual HIV sentinel surveillance system was initiated based on the premise that prevalence of HIV among pregnant women was a good proxy indicator of the spread of infection among the populace. Dr. Addo noted that HIV prevalence among Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) clients almost halved from 10.5 per cent in 2008 to 5.5 per cent due to decreases at both the Adabraka and Kumasi sites. Prevalence in the 15 to 19 and 45 to 49 years age groups was zero for both men and women.

He explained that the median syphilis prevalence for 2009 was 3.7 per cent with Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District still recording the highest prevalence of 30.4 per cent and North Tongu District recording the lowest prevalence of zero per cent.

Projecting from 2008 to 2015, Dr. Addo said the number of deaths among 15 to 49 years was expected to decline from 15,732 to 11,907, whilst annual deaths among children of 0-14 would decline from 2,566 to 1,758. New infections in children from 0-4 years would also decline from 3,354 in 2009 to 3,225 whilst new infections among 15 years and above would increase from 22,177 in 2009 to 24,299.

Total adults need for Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) from 15-49 years of age was expected to increase from 88,473 in 2009 to 111,908 whilst more persons living with HIV would need ART and Co-trimoxazole prophylaxis. The demand for these medications in children would decline as a risk of Prevention to Mother to Child Transmission (PTMCT) is reduced through an effective strategy adopted.

Dr. Addo called for more efforts to keep the HIV prevalence on further decline "else, complacency would erode all the progress made so far. He commended health workers, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and other donor partners including WHO, UNAIDS and DFID for their technical and financial support in ensuring that the HIV prevalence of the country was reduced to its barest minimum and called for more support since "this is the period that we need you most to ensure continuous drop in the prevalence".

Mr. Rojo Mettle Nunoo, Deputy Minister of Health noted that prevention was the bedrock of the national response and called for behavioural change, Voluntary Counseling and Testing and the expansion of services for PMTCT of HIV. Dr. Elias Sory, Director-General of Ghana Health Service, reiterated the need to intensify efforts in ensuring that the youth were protected and not allow complacency to destroy the tireless efforts of health workers and stakeholders. 15 March 10

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