The 2015 Heart to Heart HIV Ambassadors Caravan visits to Antenatal Clinics has been launched in Accra with a call on the public to stop HIV related stigmatization and discrimination.
Reverend John Azumah, an HIV ambassador, who made the call at the launch on Wednesday also advised men to give support to their wives and stop the blame game.
“It is high time men give support to their wives instead of blaming them all the time for being carriers of the virus when that will never solve any problem,” he said.
Rev Azumah and colleague ambassadors also counselled expectant mothers on the need to know their HIV status and be put on treatment to stop transmission of HIV to their babies.
They also encouraged pregnant women not to be apprehensive when asked to check their HIV status but see it as a means of safeguarding the health of both mother and baby.
The campaign, which is a partnership between the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and the Network of Associations of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) has since its inception in 2011, aimed at providing a human face to the HIV and AIDS disease through open disclosure of HIV status by PLHIV.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Cosmos Ohene-Adjei, the Acting Director of Technical Services, GAC observed that, the objectives of the campaign included advocating for gender equality and active involvement of men in HIV programmes, advocating for political commitment and advocacy for sustained resource mobilization for results.
“Others are sharing life stories of PLHIV to touch the hearts of people in order to provoke accepting attitudes towards PLHIV and advocating for HIV testing and counseling as the key to prevention among the sub-population,” he said
Mr Ohene-Adjei noted that a pregnant woman who is HIV positive had up to 40 per cent chance of transferring the infection to her unborn child if she is not put on treatment.
“With treatment, the possibility of the child being HIV positive is reduced to five per cent”
“An HIV positive pregnant woman can give her unborn child HIV during pregnancy, birth or breast feeding,” he said.
He noted that currently, the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV for mother and baby who successfully go through the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) protocols is seven per cent, up from the less than five per cent target by the end of the year as stated in the National Strategic Plan, 2011-2015.
Mr Ohene-Adjei however indicated that collectively, Ghana would be able to attain the post-MDG targets-the fast-track targets of 90-90-90.
“Thus 90 per cent of all person living with HIV will know their status; 90 per cent of all persons living with HIV will be on life saving antiretroviral; 90 per cent of PLHIV on treatment will have undetectable level of the virus, collectively we can achieve this,” he said.
Dr Vera Opata, the Regional HIV Coordinator, Ghana Health Service and Madam Rita Odoley Sowah, Municipal Chief Executive, LADMA, advised pregnant women on antiretroviral treatment to take their drugs as prescribed by health practitioners.
They said with the use of antiretroviral drugs, an HIV positive mothers chances of transferring the virus to her baby, reduces to lower than five per cent as opposed to the about 40 per cent chance if the woman is not on treatment.
The four member Heart-to-Heart Ambassadors, who are persons living with HIV and have dedicated their lives to sharing their life stories to encourage a more tolerant attitude towards persons living with HIV who face stigma and Among their expected duties throughout the campaign would be to dispel misconceptions that impede antenatal attendance and HIV treatment by visiting antenatal and antiretroviral sites in fourteen health facilities in the Greater Accra Region, during which they would encourage PMTCT of HIV, couple testing and counselling.