The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), trained health reporters in the Central Region on HIV and AIDS Reporting. GAC urged the Journalists to use their medium to accurately educate people, reduce stigma and encourage behaviour change.
Speaking at the training, Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, the acting Director General of Ghana AIDS Commission noted that stigmatization is making it difficult for people to check their status.
He added that, HIV has no cure but there is a scientifically proven therapy to suppress the virus, which is the anti-retroviral (ART) that works when taken diligently. However, as at December 2018, only 113,000 out of the nearly 335,000 persons living with HIV were on anti-retroviral treatment. This low uptake of ART is due to the fact that many diagnosed people are in denial of having the virus or are not aware of the treatment. This according to him, called for media capacity enhancement, to ensure frequent education to inform people.
“I encourage you all to use your reach and influence to give people the information they need to protect themselves from HIV, educate them on the treatment in case they are infected with the virus and help reduce stigma and discrimination”, urged Mr. Atuahene.
Making a presentation on the HIV situation in the Central Region, Dr. John Oto, the Cape Coast Metro Health Director noted that, Central Region with a population of about 3 million has over 26,000 persons living with HIV, comprising about 9,000 males and 17,000 females. However, the Health Service has been providing anti-retroviral treatment to only about 68.2% of these persons living with HIV.
He emphasized that, the media has more work to do, to sensitize and educate people in order to achieve the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (2016-2020) with the goal to end AIDS by 2030 and accomplish the “90-90-90 fast track target by 2020. In explaining the strategy, Dr Oto indicated that, by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV are expected to know their status, 90% of people diagnosed with HIV infection are to receive sustained anti-retroviral therapy and 90% of people receiving anti-retroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Participants expressed their gratitude to GAC and UNDP and noted that the training has broadened their knowledge and will enable them to raise more awareness on the importance of early detection of the virus. They also assured the organizers that, going forward, more education will be tailored to help reduce HIV related stigma and discrimination to encourage uptake of HIV services.
“We are going to do a lot of education and advocacy on our airwaves from now onwards. The knowledge gained will help us in our reportage, in order to change people’s perception about persons living with HIV”, stated Jennifer Rashida Yoke, Benyiwa FM, Cape Coast.
The training had 36 participants from print, broadcast and online media, who were encouraged to accurately report on HIV and AIDS.