The Deputy Regional Minister for Ahafo Region who double as Member of Parliament for Tano South, Mr. Yebaoh Sekyere Benjamin, has bemoaned the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in the region.
The legislator says the situation did not augur well for the region hence the need for residents to practice safer sex and ambassadors to promote safer sex to reduction new infections.
He was speaking on the back of the recent regional HIV new infections, which put his region on tops, a situation he painfully described as terrible.
Mr. Yeboah Sekyere Benjamin encouraged residents to also check their status on regularly basis in order to stay safe and protect themselves from the disease.
‘’I was troubled when I saw the prevalence rate for the Ahafo region. I became terrified and wondered why the region topped Greater Accra and the Ashanti region. I will appeal to you, especially the youth to be ambassadors of change. We should protect ourselves and encourage others to do same,’’ he said.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Infection with the virus results in progressive deterioration of the immune system, leading to “immune deficiency.” The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fulfil its role of fighting infection and disease. Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as “opportunistic infections”, because they take advantage of a weakened immune system.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term, which applies to the most, advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers.
HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), and oral sex with an infected person; transfusion of contaminated blood; and the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes, surgical equipment or other sharp instruments. It may also be transmitted between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the country has been pegged at 1.69 per cent, according to the 2018 national estimates and projections records.
The data generated showed that there were an estimated 334,713 people living with HIV (PLWHIV), and that out of the figure, 117,199, that is 35 per cent, were males and 217,514, or 65 per cent, were females.
Adults 15 years and above were 305,199, representing 91 per cent, and children aged zero to 14 years were 29,514 or nine per cent.
The estimated number of new infections in 2018 was 19,931, of which 7,663 were males and 12,258 females.
Of the figure, 5,532 (or 28 per cent) were aged between 15 and 24 years.
Adults in new infection for 2018 were 83 per cent or 16,614, with children being 3,317 or 17 per cent.
In 2018, an estimated 14,181 people died of AIDS-related ailments. Out of the figure, 11,412 were adults, 15 years and above, while 2,789 or 20 per cent were children between zero and 14 years.
The estimates further showed that 16,421 pregnant women needed to be placed on PMTCT, while 12,950 were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for PMTCT, meaning 78.86 per cent of pregnant women with HIV needed ART.
And in 2018, an estimated 3,317 children were infected with HIV because they could not have PMTCT. Out of the figure, 1,700, or 51 per cent, were males and 1,617, representing 49 per cent, were females.
The estimates and projections which disaggregated regional and district data also showed that the Ahafo Region had the highest estimate of 2.66 per cent, followed by Ashanti, 1.9 per cent; Bono, 2.48 per cent, and Bono East, 1.43 per cent.
The Central Region had 1.84 per cent; Eastern Region, 2.03 per cent; Greater Accra, 2.06 per cent; North East, 0.39 per cent; Northern, 0.4 per cent; Oti, 1.04 per cent; Savannah, 0.75 per cent; Upper East. 0.61 per cent; Upper West, 0.83 per cent; Volta, 1.63 per cent; Western, 1.49 per cent, and Western North, 1.78 per cent.
The top 10 districts municipalities with the highest HIV prevalence were Lower Manya Krobo, 5.6 per cent; Tano South, 5.4 per cent; Upper Denkyira East; 5.2 per cent; Kwadaso, 4.4 per cent, and Ayawaso Central, 4.3 per cent.
The rest are Obuasi East, 4.3 per cent; Banda, 4.03 per cent; Juaben, 4.0 per cent; Asutifi South, 3.97 per cent, and Yilo Krobo, 3.81 per cent.
Commenting on the Ahafo region, the MP stressed on the need for residents to value their lives, protect themselves and desist from unsafe sexual practices.
To those who have contracted the virus, the legislator encouraged them not to lose hope since there were drugs they could take to make them healthy.
‘’Do not be discouraged if you already have the disease; we have drugs that can help you manage the virus. I will stress on the need for us to value our lives and be safe all the time.’’ He stated.
According to estimates by WHO and UNAIDS, 36.7 million people were living with HIV globally at the end of 2016. That same year, some 1.8 million people became newly infected, and 1 million died of HIV-related causes.
By: Rashid Obodai Provencal