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Ending HIV/AIDS: Commitment to the lifesaving Antiretroviral Therapy critical

Araba Benson (pseudonym) tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 2004 with her husband and two of her children.

They experienced many opportunistic symptoms including skin rashes, loss of appetite, severe headache, stomach pains, diarrhoea and cough, not knowing what it was initially.

The debilitating symptoms started with her husband who turned very weak and could barely do anything for himself.

His condition deteriorated, leading to the collapse of his business as a fridge repairer which took a heavy toll on his family.

HIV Test

Eventually, he was led by a Catholic Sister to a facility at Agormanya in the Eastern Region where he discovered he had been infected with HIV.

The development prompted his wife and children to run the same test, a test that came out positive.

Araba and her family were advised to go to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for antiretroviral drugs after two months, but they hesitated, doubting the effectiveness of the medication.

‘I decided not to take the med
ication because we were going to die anyway. But I had a change of mind when I visited Korle Bu with my husband and saw the state of some of the patients who looked like skeletons.

‘Then, I decided to give it a try because I did not want to die in a skeletal state to bring shame to my family,’ she said.

Because there were not adequate medications at the time, priority was given to patients with weaker immune systems.


Consequently, Araba’s husband and her nine-year-old son who were in relatively worse conditions were put on drugs immediately, leaving the rest of the family to start treatment later.

‘I was operating a restaurant then, but I couldn’t run it anymore. Life was quite difficult in the beginning because we were all attending hospital for treatment.

‘We could barely feed ourselves. I was using every money I had saved to cook because we were advised not to eat from the street,’ she said.

After religiously taking her medication for a while and reaching an undetectable viral load, Araba
gave birth to her third child who tested negative for the virus.

The entire family is still alive and at 52, Araba looks plump and very healthy.

‘Because we started early medication, nobody knows our status,’ she said.


The Ghana AIDS Commission’s 2022 reports indicated that a total of 24,046 people are living with HIV in the Central Region which recorded 1,240 new infections.

Of the number, 16,021 representing 71.63 per cent are women.

It adds that adults,15 years and above are 22,364, representing 93 per cent.

The Gomoa East District recorded the highest incidence with 2,590 cases while Ekumfi recorded the lowest with 285, the report indicated.

The figures position the Central Region as the fourth region with the highest population of persons living with HIV, following the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Eastern Regions.

Poor ART coverage

Unfortunately, the Central Region is the second region with the lowest Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) coverage of 53.9 per cent, only second to the Savannah
Region which has 53.1 per cent.

This means that more than 46 per cent of the persons living with the virus in the Region are not on ART treatment, posing significant risks to themselves and the larger population.

Mr William Kwaku Yeboah, the Central Regional Technical Coordinator for the Ghana AIDS Commission, attributes the unwillingness of people to seek treatment to continuous stigma and discrimination even though treatment is free.

‘They are tagged as immoral people. In fact, the moment you get HIV, even your own child can stay away from you and so, people are not willing to test in the first place to know their status.

‘Which means, they will keep on infecting more people,’ he noted.

He says it is possible to end AIDS if HIV-positive persons take their medications religiously to make the virus ‘undetectable’ and ‘untransmittable. ‘

Ghana, he observed, has adequate medication, readily available in many health facilities across the country to cater for all patients.

Contraceptives and prevention

Yeboah debunked the notion that all contraceptives could protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

‘Any contraceptive you use besides a condom cannot protect you against HIV. Condom is the only contraceptive that can protect you from HIV and other STIs. The rest will only prevent pregnancy,’ he cautioned.

For the region to keep recording new cases, means people are not using condoms because sexual transmissions form about 80 per cent of the infections, he said.

While advising against having multiple sexual partners, he said it was important to ‘protect oneself at all times and never lose guard because one does not know the status of the other party.’

Mr Yeboah appealed to the public to make conscious efforts at all levels towards eliminating the virus, citing the burden of the disease on individuals, families, communities, and the State.

‘If HIV were not there, the monies we have spent on it for the past 37 years could have been channelled into other areas of development,’ he said.

Routine testing

Narrating her experience with the virus, Araba entreated the public to get tested to know their status for early treatment if they tested positive, stating that everything about HIV treatment is free.

‘Don’t be nervous about it. It is better to know what is wrong with you before it gets worse and kills you,’ she advised.

She observed that the virus does not kill but a lot of people are dying because they are not taking good care of themselves.

‘There are people who have stopped taking their medications because they feel better now. You are not completely free from the virus. If you stop taking the medication, the virus will come back in their numbers.

‘People are also resorting to churches and all sorts of spiritual places. We are urging all of them to come back to care,’ she said.

Way forward

The economic, social and health effects of HIV and AIDS are devastating.

To end the virus, all stakeholders, particularly the Ghana AIDS Commission and the Ghana Health Service, must return to th
eir intensive campaign against the virus and work to widen the ART coverage across the country.

It is trite knowledge that the Ghana AIDS Commission is woefully under-resourced and faces severe logistical challenges.

The government must resource the Commission adequately to enable them to undertake their duties diligently.

Health is a shared responsibility, thus citizens must endeavour to get tested and start early treatment if they test positive.

Additionally, as Araba has done, more survivors are encouraged to share their success stories with the therapy to encourage more patients to commit to the treatment.

With a concerted effort, Ghana can and must strive to become HIV-free.

Source: Ghana News Agency