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Health News of Thursday, 20 February 2020

Source: GNA

GHS launches innovation for early infant diagnosis of HIV

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The Ghana Health Service(GHS) has launched two new innovations to help improve medical care for children and help further reduce child mortality in the country.

The innovations are Point of Care (POC), a technics for early infant diagnosis of HIV among children and the Scaling Pneumonia Responses Innovation (SPRINT) at Koforidua in the Eastern Region.

In a speech read on his behalf at the launch, the Minister of Health, Dr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, explained that the POC innovation enabled health workers to confirm HIV diagnosis the same day in the same facility where the patient-reported and initiate treatment on the same day to provide the best opportunity for the child to survive.

He said the new innovation saves time and the lives of the children because specimen would not be transferred to other facilities for confirmation and resolution of other issues.

Dr Agyeman-Manu said the adoption of the POC policy would help the country to achieve the 90-90 target set by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

He explained that the SPRINT sought to introduce and scale-up Amoxicillin Dispersible Tablet(Amox-DT) as the first-line antibiotic for the treatment of uncomplicated pneumonia in children as recommended by the World Health Organization(WHO).

Dr Agyeman-Manu explained that Amoxicillin Dispersible tablets has several advantages compared to the suspension.

He said the tablets were easier to handle, stable and did not need refrigeration like the suspension which loses the active ingredient when kept outside the cold chain and also ensured accurate dosing.

Dr Agyeman-Manu said the SPINT initiative sought to ensure quality of care for children affected by severe pneumonia by improving the availability of oxygen, which was a critical life-saving commodity in the treatment of pneumonia.

He said the innovation allowed oxygen to be present for continuous treatment of severe pneumonia patients bought into the health facility by the ambulances, which were recently distributed by the government.

The Health Minister said the two innovations being launched fed well into the universal health coverage of the government and helped the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the health sector.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Acting Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, said improving the health and wellbeing of children in Ghana had always been a priority for the GHS.

He said this had resulted in a significant reduction in sickness and death among children under five years as evidence in 50 per cent drop in the under-five years child mortality over the last 20 years.

Dr Aboagye said the GHS would support Eastern Region in the implementation of the two innovations and would be keenly monitored by GHS so that the experience and lessons learnt could be scaled up for nationwide implementation and for other countries to learn from Ghana’s experience.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) representative in Ghana, Ms Anne-Clair Dufay, said despite the achievements of Ghana in reducing under-five mortality rate, the current mortality was still high and more needed to be done.

She said Ghana and Senegal were the first two countries to be supported by UNICEF to implement the SPRINT and POC strategies.

Ms Dufay said under the project, between 2019 and 2021, about 68,000 children in West and Central Africa who were exposed to HIV were expected to receive early diagnosis and early treatment within the first two months of their birth.

The Eastern Regional Director of Health Services, Dr (Mrs) Alberta Biritwum Nyarko express appreciation to the GHS, UNICEF and the development partners of the country for choosing Eastern Region to run the pilot project on the two strategies and assured that the Region would put up their best to ensure the success of the project.

The chairman of the function, the Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Eric Kwakye Darfour, assured the Ministry of Health and the development partners of the support of the Eastern Regional Coordinating Council to ensure the success of the project.

He expressed his trust in the capacity of the health staff in the Region to ensure the success of the project, so that the lessons learnt from the Region could be used to scale up the project for the whole country and other countries to also come and learn from the Region.