Susan Namondo Ngongi
Children in Ghana are lagging behind in access to HIV and AIDS services, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
Presenting statistics to support its assertion, the United Nations (UN) agency said among the 250,000 people currently living with HIV in the country, over 21,000 are children under the age of 15.
“Out of these vulnerable and at risk children, only one in five are on antiretroviral treatment, increasing the number of children at risk of sickness and death from HIV and AIDS due to limited access to antiretroviral therapy,” it said.
Current estimates put at 1,300 the number of annual AIDS related deaths among children aged under 15 in Ghana.
Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Ghana country representative, said though Ghana has made huge strides in the fight against HIV and AIDS, urgent attention is needed to get life-saving treatment to children and women who are infected and to sustain efforts aimed at preventing new infections in Ghana.
“It is in our power to achieve an AIDS-free generation,” she added.
She said in order to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS on children, there is a need to scale up prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) by increasing the coverage of HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral therapy (ART), as well that of HIV-positive children.
Currently in Ghana, one in three HIV-positive women receive ARV treatment, whilst only one in five HIV-positive children are on ARV drugs.
This means that the greater majority of HIV-exposed children are not accessing early diagnosis and, therefore, those among them who are infected are not benefiting from ART.
A new report released by UNICEF ‘Statistical Update On Children, Adolescents And AIDS’ revealed that since 2000, globally nearly 30 million new infections have been averted, largely due to advances in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Moreover, according to the report, less than half of children under two months old are tested for HIV.
The HIV prevalence rate in Ghana, according to the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey, stands at 2.1 percent.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri