HIV/AIDS: USAID, JSI and partners embarks on project to achieve epidemic control in Western Region
The JSI Research and Training Institute Incorporation is set to achieve HIV/AIDS epidemic control in the Western Region by September 2020. A USAID Strengthening the Care Continuum Project has been initiated by JSI Research and Training Institute in partnership with the Population Council with funding from the USAID to improve the capacity of the Government of Ghana, and its partners, to provide quality, comprehensive HIV services for key populations including female sex workers and their partners, and people living with HIV. This year round given the success of the first phase of the project, and the rising prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the Western Region, the project has been extended to eleven districts in the Western Region.
Speaking at a project inception meeting held in Takoradi, Chief of Party for JSI Research and Training Institute, Dr. Henry N. Nagai intimated that the intervention will cut down on HIV/AIDs related deaths, and new infections within and possibly after the project life.
“Reaching epidemic control by September 2020 will call for a six-fold increase in the number of people linked and retrained in treatment in the region. This makes it necessary for us to effectively identify new cases, link those who are tested HIV positive to treatment, ensure that they stay on treatment.
“This will only be possible if we work together toward achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets that have been adopted by Ghana by implementing innovative and high yielding approaches including index testing in facilities and communities, putting and retaining clients on treatment as soon as they are diagnosed and supporting effective viral load testing” he explained.
In a speech read on his behalf, Acting Director General of the Ghana AIDs Commission, Mr Kyereme Atuahene noted that other African countries have made significant gains with epidemic control and as such the project will ultimately benefit Ghana.
“We must take cues from counties like Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe who are all on the path towards epidemic control by obtaining sustained viral suppression in PHLHIV and HIV is virtually not transmissible from them. This is not beyond Ghana and specifically the Western Region” Mr. Atuahene emphasised.
Western Region HIV Coordintor, Dr. Samuel Aidoo scored that the objective set for the project is ambitious, given the time frame within which targets are to be realized. He noted that implementation of the project might encounter some barriers, yet given the resources, and a targeted approach, outcomes set will be achieved.
“Looking backwards at what the country and the rest of he sub-region have achieved, it is becoming clear that these targets may be unobtainable with just a year to 2020.
“However, there is a glimpse of hope”, Dr Aidoo remarked.
“…if resources are maximised and focused on a particular geographical area it is possible. If this approach, which I am deeply convinced would yield enviable outcomes may also help develop a model that would be a guide to achieving epidemic control in the entire country and the sub-region at large” he mentioned.
The USAID Care Continuum project draws on active collaboration between local actors, and employs a country owned and led approach to improve access to and sue of HIV services, as well as reduce stigma and discrimination in health settings.