Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama, has tasked Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Ministries of Health, Trade and Industry and Finance and Economic Planning, to speed up discussions on local production of HIV drugs.
“In accordance with the joint strategy of the African Union, and in the face of dwindling donor support, this is ultimately the surest way for government to eventually contain costs and help sustain the treatment programme in Ghana and the sub-Region,” he added.
President Mahama was speaking in a speech read on his behalf on Tuesday at this year’s World AIDS Day celebration held in Cape Coast on the theme: ‘Getting to Zero- Accelerating to Zero together.”
The event, which also marked the 10th Anniversary of the GAC, was attended by a number of people across the country including government officials, religious and traditional leaders as well as students.
President Mahama said there is the need for Ghana to remove all barriers for the treatment of HIV, particularly the GH¢5.00 cost, which he said hinders access to regular HIV treatment services by Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV).
He therefore directed the Ministry of Health to ensure that the service charge paid by the PLHIV who are on the National Health Insurance Scheme is removed with immediate effect.
Those who are not registered with the scheme would be catered for by March 2013.
The President said government would continue to increase funding for the procurement of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which would optimise treatment for all PLHIV until Zero AIDS-related deaths is achieved.
He pledged that the government would continue to pursue high impact interventions to ensure that new HIV infections are reduced by 50 per cent in 2015 with the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, to keep mothers alive and ensure healthy families.
According to him current data from the National AIDS Commission Programme of the Ghana Health Service indicates that 69,347 adults and children have been initiated to ARVs and as at September it had already achieved 91 per cent of the treatment target.
President Mahama reminded the citizenry of the need to show accepting attitudes towards PLHIV and asked everyone to be bold and get tested in order to know their HIV status.
He commended GAC for tactfully and successfully fulfilling its mandate over the past 10 years and reducing the national HIV prevalence rate from 3.6 per cent in 2003 to 1.5 per cent in 2011.
Dr Angela El-Adas, Director General of the GA C noted that in 2011, Central Region recorded the highest HIV prevalence of 4.7 per cent, indicating more than a 100 per cent hike from 1.7 per cent in 2010.
She said the region was therefore chosen for this year’s celebration to create much awareness, expand and scale up interventions and services that would ensure a reduction in HIV prevalence in the area.
She said GAC would continue to eradicate the stigma and discrimination attached to PLHIV and urged patients to adhere to the treatment regime.