General News of Saturday, 26 October 2013

Source: GNA

HIV and breast cancer: threat to Ghana's economy - First Lady

Mrs Lordina Mahama, the First Lady, on Friday described HIV and breast cancer as serious health problems which could affect the economic fortunes of the country if not properly addressed.

She, therefore, called for efforts from all stakeholders for the prevention of the diseases in order to reduce their impact and help improve the quality of lives of Ghanaians.

Mrs Lordina said this at an HIV and AIDS advocacy meeting on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTC) in Koforidua on Friday.

She said the transmission of HIV from mothers to their infants contributed substantially to global morbidity and mortality for children under five years

Mrs Lordina said approximately 1,000 HIV-infected infants are born every day, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, amounting to nearly 370,000 new pediatric infections annually.

She said prevention of mother-to-child could be accomplished by effective, accessible and scalable interventions within existing maternal and child health services, which are available at health facilities.

Mrs Mahama said Ghana was making progress in addressing PMTCT through its scale up plan by preventing infection in women of reproductive age, preventing unattended pregnancies in women with HIV and providing treatment, care and support to mothers, their children and families.

She said it was against that backdrop that she has taken upon herself to mobilize Ghanaians, educate communities and advocate for more attention and resources to address the triple burden on mother-to-child transmission of HIV, breast and cervical cancers in Ghana.

“My main aim is to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, breast and cervical cancers, and to improve on health outcomes and quality of life for women in Ghana,” she said.

The First Lady, who is the Vice President of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV and AIDS, urged political and opinion leaders to help mobilize resources towards the attainment of an HIV-free society where there will be no longer sufferings from both diseases.

She said over 2,900 Ghanaians are diagnosed with breast cancer every year with half of them dying from the disease.

The First Lady said statistics from the Ghana Health Service shows that 3,038 women are diagnosed annually with cervical cancer, with 2,006 of them dying from the disease every year.

She said cervical cancer could be prevented by the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine, which is available in Ghana, and urged patients to take advantage of the drug.

Madam Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Health, said in terms of HIV and in particular PMTCT, Ghana was doing well and that the prevalence among ante-natal attendants was 2.1 percent while in the general adult population, it was 1.37 percent.

She said the National HIV Prevalence, AIDS Estimation Report shows that over 2,300 new infections were averted in children in 2012 through the provision of PMTCT services.

Mrs Ayittey stressed the need to intensify the prevention arm of the health delivery system and encourage people to adapt simple but effective processes and procedures such as washing of hands with soap and water before eating; the use of condoms consistently and correctly testing for HIV when pregnant among others, to improve the health care delivery.

The Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr Angela El-Adas, commended the First Lady for her passion and commitment to the vulnerable and marginalized in society as well as ensuring the health of women through advocacy for the prevention of HIV, breast and cervical cancers.