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Health News of Sunday, 23 December 2012

Source: GNA

Ghana to switch policy on HIV

Ghana is to, by next mid-year, swing into a policy change to World Health Organisation’s Option B Plus for accelerated achievement of 50 percent reduction of new HIV infections by the 2015 projection.

Option B Plus policy, an improvement on the current B position, would seek to place HIV pregnant women on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for life than the Option B which only extended the therapy period to between 14 weeks to 12 months.

Dr Richard Amenyah, Director of Technical Services, Ghana AIDS Commission, disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of a three-day media sensitisation workshop in Ho.

He said the impact of the policy change would prevent mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT), keep mothers alive to care for babies and families, protect partners and avert drug resistance.

“The policy swing is already recording positive strides in some countries including Malawi and Norway.”

Dr Amenyah said the National Strategic Plan of 2011-2015 sets out to reduce new infections to an estimated 12,934 annually from the current annual rate of 25,869.

He said the number of HIV-infected pregnant women on anti-retroviral drugs for the PMTCT would increase to 15,651 (95%) by 2015 from the 3,634 in 2009.

Dr Amenyah said Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) intended to strengthen referral system for PMTCT to antiretroviral therapy sites including reinforcing supply and logistical management and scale-up laboratories with CD4 facilities – machines that test and evaluate effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy for HIV patients.

On female condom stocks, Dr Amenyah said the number available for use had been increased after its re-launch in October.

He said a positive attribute of the female condom not being explored by the male counterparts was that its inner and outer rings were conduits for stimulating pleasure during sexual act.

Dr Amenyah, therefore, urged the active male population to patronise the use of the female condom for safety, pleasure and ecstasy.

He indicated there were about 44 million condoms available out of their projections of 66 million condoms for HIV prevention and family planning purposes.

Dr Amenyah said condoms stock countrywide should scale to an estimated 521 million by 2015 from the case of availability of 481 million in 2011.

He said GAC had started work to expand condom distribution outlets, promote safe sex among discordant couples and target population as well as meet the national requirements at all times.

Ghana’s National Strategic Five-Year Plan for HIV and AIDS has been developed to direct the implementation of the national response which includes reducing by half HIV infections within the timeframe by prioritising virtual elimination of mother to child transmission .

Government is to build capacity of institutions coordinating, managing and implementing the national response, ensure the relevant gaps are addressed to deliver efficient services and make sure HIV interventions are evidence-based and result-oriented.

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