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Africa

Ghanaians still struggle under the weight of HIV/AIDS

HIV-positive Ghanaians are worried that their supply of life-saving medicines will dry up as donor funds dwindle. Five million AIDS sufferers in central and western Africa still have no access to treatment.

Langah Amadu is one of those living with HIV in Tamale in northern Ghana who has to take daily medication.

"I don't know the day I contracted HIV, but I was diagnosed in 2006 and I started the ARV (anti-retroviral) treatments in 2006," Amadu said.

Previously, almost the entire budget for the management of HIV/AIDS in Ghana was funded by donor agencies, including the Global Fund. But since the country declared its middle income status, donor support has waned. Providing testing kits and drugs is now a challenge. HIV patients are struggling to get adequate drugs to manage their conditions.

"We are scared because we need the drugs to sustain our lives. So in case the drugs are not there, what we are going to live on?" Amadu asks.

Ghana recorded a steady decline in general adult prevalence of HIV between 2003 and 2013. But there are still challenges in fighting the disease. Many sufferers have no access to anti-retroviral treatment.

Moving forward

The Ghana Aids Commission, the agency responsible for the management of HIV/AIDS cases in Ghana, has begun lobbying the private sector for financial support. Nuhu Musah, the Commission's technical coordinator in the north of Ghana, hopes the much-needed support will be forthcoming.

"We are looking at the end of the day at completely eliminating HIV throughout Ghana so that is why we need all available resources to make sure that we don't leave any stone unturned," he said.

AIDS testing in West Africa

Fewer than 24 percent of sufferers have access to anti-retroviral drugs in West and Central Africa

Dr Jacob Mahama, Director of Health Services Northern Region, said there are still challenges in fighting the disease.

But Nuhu Musah said the AIDS Commission is scaling up interventions to achieve a zero record of AIDS transmissions by 2020.

"Now we have moved to option B+, meaning that it is more or less like test and treat. That makes the issue more complex because you test everybody, you treat everybody. That is where we need the private sector the more," he said.

Millions without drugs

According to a recent study released by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), as many as five million AIDS sufferers in central and western Africa have no access to treatment.

The report says that fewer than 24 percent of sufferers have access to anti-retroviral drugs. Around 21 percent of those who contract the virus every year and around half of children born with the disease live in western and central Africa.

"Needs remain enormous in central and western Africa where three in four [sufferers] do not have access to anti-AIDS treatments - that's five million people," said MSF medical coordinator Eric Goemaere.

It is public knowledge in Ghana that the private sector's involvement in the national HIV response has been relatively insignificant. Ghanaians are now waiting to see what impact the latest appeal will make.

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