The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday, had an interactive session with women groups from diverse backgrounds, to promote the “Free to Shine” (F2S) Campaign on HIV.
The meeting also to discuss other issues of national development.
The meeting provided the women with the required knowledge and information on the elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, and make them envoys of the F2S Campaign, which was being spearheaded by the First Lady of Ghana.
The groups numbering about 19 were made up of both Faith and Work-based, as well as Social Associations respectively.
Mrs Akufo-Addo in an address, said the F2S Campaign, which she launched in January 2019, was in line with global efforts to eliminate the possibility of any child being born with HIV, and Ghana cannot be left out.
She said the meeting, which was a follow up to the ‘Free to Shine’ campaign was to ensure that children were born Free of HIV, remained free from the disease and become free to Shine in all aspects of their growth and lives while maintaining the health of mothers.
She said it was known from the 2017 Maternal Health Survey that over 97 per cent of women receive ante-natal care when pregnant, which was an indication that with a little effort, Ghana could achieve its 2020 target of ensuring the Prevention of Mother- to- Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and further securing the health of mothers.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said attaining this, would be possible if all women test to know their status, received and adhered to treatment if they tested positive, and also ensuring that they all learned about the facts and acquire knowledge on how to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.
She mentioned that years ago, the mention of HIV and AIDS struck fear in the heart of many, but today enormous progress had been made in tackling the epidemic, yet there was still much to be done.
“The good news is that it is possible to eliminate the disease completely,” saying, it was this hope that led to the current meeting with the women groups, who were expected to be key ambassadors of the Campaign in the various communities across the country.
Mrs Akufo-Addo recounted her experience with the Heart to Heart Ambassadors when she first took office as the First Lady of Ghana, saying in engaging with them and listening to their stories, she became fully convinced about the possibility of living with HIV and having a full life, healthy spouses and children who do not have HIV.
She said “as much as it is good to have a good life living with HIV, our target is to have a country where no one has HIV”, and urged the participants to go back into their communities fully equipped with knowledge and information as agent of change to answer questions, allay all fears, and clear doubts in the minds of people on HIV.
She further entreated the leadership of the various groups to set aside a day, where the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV would be the main topic for discussion in order for the message to reach a wider audience.
Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, Acting Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), gave a brief background of the F2S Campaign and said it was an action movement decided upon by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) during one of their General Assembly Meetings to contribute to ending needless HIV infections and AIDS in children, and also endorsed by the African Unity.
He said the First Ladies at the meeting, resolved to use every rightful means to achieve the goals of eliminating HIV, saying, through the Campaign, they would add their voices in advocacy, form partnerships, mobilise resources, and raise awareness on what must be done and could be done to end AIDS in children.
He said thanks to such campaigns, the perception of HIV as a death sentence had currently changed to that of chronic disease, yet stigma remained a major challenge, while the non-adherence to Anti-Retroviral Therapy and pregnant women opting to deliver their babies in prayer camps instead of in health facilities had become a worrying trend.
Mr Fred Nana Poku, the Director of Technical Services, GAC, said the national Campaign seeks among other things, to mobilise all women in their reproductive age to access and utilize PMTCT of HIV services, strengthen follow-up actions for improved early infant diagnosis coverage, reduce HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination and foster community involvement and participation in ending the disease in Children.