Health News of Friday, 30 March 2012

Source: GNA

National HIV prevalence declining

HIV prevalence for the next three years (2012-2015), is expected to decline from the current 1.5 per cent in 2011 to 1.3 per cent in 2015.

However, the number of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS will continue to increase, due to the combined effects of population growth and an increasing number of HIV infected persons that are living on Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART).

The total number of HIV persons expected to be on ART will increase over the period to 113,723 with 96,854 being adults and 16,986 children.

These were announced by Dr Nii Akwei Addo, Programme Manager of National AIDS Control Programme at the launching of 2011 HIV Sentinel Survey Report in Accra.

It is a cross-sectional survey targeting pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in selected antenatal sites in Ghana. In all, 40 sentinel sites were selected in the 10 Regions with a sample size of 19,391 pregnant women.

Objective of the survey is to provide HIV prevalence data for monitoring of the epidemic and planning as well as evaluation of HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care activities.

Dr Addo explained that, the Annual HIV positive births were projected to reduce due to the improved Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) strategy, while positive mothers who would need PMTCT would decline over the period as the numbers receiving PMTCT increased.

He was optimistic that there would be a decline in the trend of the number of AIDS orphans as more adult clients survived on ART.

The national HIV prevalence for 2011 estimated at 1.5 per cent with an estimated 225,478 persons, made up of 100,336 men and 125,141 women living with HIV and AIDS.

Though 2010 had the same prevalence of 1.5 per cent, 2011 had 12,077 new infections and 15,263 AIDS deaths as against 14,165 new infections and 17,230 deaths in 2010.

Children living with HIV were 30,395 with 1,704 new child infections that occurred in almost equal proportions by gender while annual AIDS deaths among children were 2,080.

Dr Addo noted that five regions; Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Ashanti and Volta, recorded an increase in HIV prevalence while Brong Ahafo’s prevalence remained the same as the remaining four regions, Northern, Western, Upper East and Upper West recorded a decrease from their 2010 figures.

Central Region recorded 4.7 per cent in 2011 as against 1.7 per cent in 2010, Eastern Region recorded 3.6 per cent in 2011 as against 3.4 per cent in 2010; Greater Accra recorded 3.2 per cent in 2011 as against 2.6 per cent in 2010, Ashanti recorded 3.1 per cent in 2011 as against 3.0 in 2010 while the Volta Region recorded 2.2 per cent as against 1.8 per cent.

Unfortunately, the reclining HIV prevalence in Ghana’s young population witnessed over the past few years was reversed in the 2011 survey report. Prevalence among young persons aged between 15- 24 years which was used as a proxy for new infections was 1.7 per cent as against 1.5 per cent in 2010.

Dr Addo was contented that HIV Type II shrunk further by half leaving the Type I, as still the most dominant variant with 98 per cent proportion and described the reduction in proportion of HIV Type II as ideal for Ante Retroviral Therapy (ART) delivery.

Syphillis prevalence ranged from zero per cent in Dangbe East, Bawku, Bolgatanga and Navrongo to 12 per cent in Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa District with the median prevalence dropping further by 48.5 per cent from 2010’s figure of 3.3 per cent to 1.7 per cent in 2011.

HIV prevalence among Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) clients increased from 5.3 per cent to 7.9 per cent with the prevalence in Kumasi site dropping while that in the Adabraka site increased resulting in an increase in the national prevalence.

Dr Addo noted that though Ghana could not be complacent at all in the commitment towards ensuring a record of zero per cent in all the three areas, there was the need for stakeholders to soberly reflect on the surprises in this year’s data and cautiously analyse the data to avoid pitfalls in planning and decision making.

He entreated all stakeholders to review the wealth of information in relation to current intervention priorities towards ensuring universal access to comprehensive HIV and AIDS services as enshrined in Ghana’s Strategic Plan for the next five years.**