By Eunice Hilda A. Mensah
Accra, Nov.11, GNA – The Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) and the Network of Persons Living with HIV (NAP+) have appealed to government to include the HIV and AIDS Fund in the 2023 budget.
Government established the Fund in 2016 to respond to the dwindling inflow of donor funds towards HIV and AIDS campaigns.
Mr Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, President, GHANET, made the appeal with support from Civil Society Organisations in Health.
He said the appeal had become necessary as the lives of some 250,000 adults and 12,000 children living with the virus were in grave danger.
This is due to strong signals from the Global Fund, the largest donor to the national HIV and AIDS response since 2002, to cut back on its support to the country, especially regarding the supply of free Antiretroviral Therapy medications and other essential commodities required in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“As a matter of fact, since this information came to our knowledge, we have become grimly apprehensive, not knowing what would befall our brothers, sisters and children living with HIV should the Global Fund go ahead with its plans.”
New HIV infections in the last five years alone have averaged 19,000 per year, according to the National AIDS/STI Control Programme.
“Clearly, this is not acceptable. How do we justify these alarming number of deaths to a disease that is preventable and for, which treatment is available,” Mr Ortsin asked?
He said the nation now had cohorts of young people who knew nothing about HIV and AIDS, adding: “It therefore comes as no surprise that adolescent girls and young women accounted for 20 per cent of total new infections in the year.”
Mr Ortsin said though they acknowledged the economic challenges facing the country, the rate of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the country called for the activation of the Fund, saying, “It is a national emergency that can no longer wait”.
He reminded President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is the Chairman of the Governing Board of the National AIDS Commission, of his pledge to commit US$100 million, over a five-year period, into the National HIV and AIDS Fund at the United Nations High-Level meeting.
The GHANET President also reminded the First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, that there was no way the nation could eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS by 2030 if it did not make resources available for the national response.
“Our fourth appeal goes to our Development Partners (DPs), particularly the Global Fund, UNAIDS, WHO, PEPFAR/USAID and all others. Indeed we appreciate all the support they continuously give to our country. However, we are also fully aware of the emerging syndrome of ‘donor fatigue’…We, therefore, appeal to the DPs to use their influence in the country to support our call on the Government to activate the National HIV and AIDS Fund. ”
He also appealed to the public to refrain from being judgmental, saying thousands of adolescents were living with HIV because they were born with the virus.
Mr Ortsin bemoaned the cessation of HIV and AIDS education and sensitisation programmes in schools, workplaces, churches, mosques, markets, lorry stations, local communities and in the media for over a decade due to lack of resources.