Ghana hopes to make gains with HIV test-and-treat policy

Ghana is now implementing the test and treat policy which is aimed at testing and treating persons diagnosed with HIV instantly at the health facility to ensure that all HIV persons are enrolled unto the antiretroviral medication treatment.

In 2017, the West African country adopted the policy under the new consolidated World Health Organisation (WHO)’s HIV prevention, care, treatment and support strategy.

Under the new policy guidelines, a person is immediately put on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) as soon as they test positive.

The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) says the waiting period before putting on medication gives room for some persons diagnosed with the virus to either escape the treatment or go hiding and only come back with serious implications.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of the West African AIDS Foundation, Dr Naa Ashley Vanderpuye, the programme will help reduce the rate of infection in unborn babies.

She noted that 20,000 new infections were recorded among pregnant women every year while the total new infections rate increased by 21 percent across all ages in 2016.

The ‘test and treat’ policy recommends that all HIV-infected individuals are eligible for antiretroviral treatment at diagnosis, regardless of their disease stage and CD4 cell count.

This approach replaces the existing HIV treatment guidelines that recommended only infected persons with advanced-opportunistic secondary infections of tuberculosis and with low CD4 cell count for ARV drugs.

The guidelines for the policy are aligned with the global 90-90-90 targets, whereby WHO and UNAIDS recommended that by 2030, 90 percent of all people know their HIV status, 90 percent of all HIV-infected individuals are on antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of those on antiretroviral therapy have achieved viral load suppression.

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