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General News of Thursday, 24 January 2019

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

First Lady launches ‘F2S Campaign’ to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV

First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo launching the 'Free to Shine Campaign'


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First Lady Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo with support from the Ghana AIDS Commission, has launched the Free to Shine Campaign, an initiative which seeks to speed up the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

This campaign, which will be spear-headed by the Office of the First Lady falls in line with an earlier launch by the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV and AIDS, the African Union and the UNAIDS.

In Ghana last year, almost 1.7 million HIV tests were done with females forming 80% of the numbers tested. Half of the females tested were pregnant women out of which 1.6% were HIV positive. As at September 2018, 48% of all HIV exposed infants had been screened with 5% being positive implying a mother to child transmission rate of 5%.

While, these statistics are worrying, early diagnoses and strict administration of the anti-retroviral treatment have been known to be effective in the prevention of mother to child transmission.

Launching the campaign in Accra Thursday, the first lady Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo said she was optimistic the campaign will deepen efforts and make it possible to end HIV/AIDS in children by 2020.

This according to her is because, Ghana, unlike some countries which have achieved or are on course to achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission have the technical capacity and advantage needed to curb the menace.

“The theme for the Free to Shine Campaign is: Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission: the Key to an HIV-Free Generation and Keeping Mothers Alive.

In line with this theme, the Campaign seeks to achieve zero HIV infection in children by 2020, end AIDS in children by 2030 and keep infected mothers alive and healthy.

“I must point out that, some African Countries, which have achieved or are on course to achieving elimination of mother-to-child transmission do not have the technical capacity and advantages that Ghana has. So we in Ghana can also do it”, Mrs. Akufo-Addo stated.

“As a mother myself, I am pretty confident that any mother will do whatever it takes, to ensure that they have healthy children, who can live life to the fullest. This can be achieved quite simply. Test, know your status and treat”.

Adding; “It is possible to end HIV and AIDS in children in Ghana within the next two years, through the Free to Shine Campaign. But I know that this Campaign will increase the demand for services. It is therefore very critical that we remove all bottlenecks associated with the supply side, to meet the expected increase in demand.”

She urged patients who have tested positive to ignore public stigmatization and concentrate on their treatment.

“Several years ago, HIV was a death sentence – treatment was not available. At the time, it was a fearful and futile exercise to test and know your status. Even when you knew, you kept quiet about your status because of stigma. Things are different now”.

“Thanks to scientific advancement in the field of HIV, the world and indeed Ghana have made huge progress in HIV treatment. Why should any woman deny herself the benefits of these life-saving medicines because of stigma? My fellow women, visit antenatal clinics regularly when you become pregnant, be bold and test for HIV to know your status. If you test positive, know that you are not alone because there are nearly 40 million people living with HIV globally. The most important thing is to adhere to antiretroviral treatment. Adhering to treatment will also ensure that you give birth to an HIV-free baby who will live and grow free of HIV.” She added.

The event was graced by the Deputy Greater Accra Regional Minister, Elizabeth Sackey, the Member of Parliament for Ledzokuku Constituency Bernard Okoe Boye, the Municipal Chief Executive, Traditional Rulers, Representatives from the Ministry of Health And Ghana Aids Commission, UNAIDS, AIDS Ambassadors and other Stakeholders.

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