An HIV AIDS programme aimed at reducing new infections and stigmatisation has kick-started in five selected regions in the country.
The project, dubbed: “Reinforcing the scaling up of HIV services: Strengthening HIV prevention and effective targeting,” is designed to reach 15 selected municipal and district assemblies in the five regions.
The beneficiary regions are the Brong Ahafo, Upper West, Ashanti, Northern and Upper East. The selected municipalities and districts are Kintampo North, Sunyani and Techiman municipalities, the Kintampo South, Dormaa East, Asutifi, Nkoranza North, Pru, Wenchi and Jaman North districts in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The rest are Jirapa, Lawra-Nandom, Wa and Lambusie in the Upper West Region, Kumasi Metropolis and Bosomtwe District in the Ashanti Region, Central Gonja and East Gonja in the Northern Region and Bolgatanga and Bawku West in the Upper East Region.
The project, which is being financed by the Global Fund, is being implemented by the Mission of Hope for Society Foundation (MIHOSO) and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency of Ghana (ADRA), both non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The project also seeks to address the gaps in the national HIV response such as the superficial understanding of HIV in many segments of the population.
The project is also targeted at people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV), most at risks population (MARP), men having sex with men and their female counterparts, female sex workers (FSWs), prison inmates, most-at-risk youth (15-24), workers (miners), transport workers, female porters, pregnant women, infants born to HIV-positive women and the general population.
In an interaction with the Daily Graphic at a community capacity enhancement (CCE) training workshop in Sunyani, Mr Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu, the Executive Director of MIHOSO, said so far, the project had been able to cover more than 5,000 people on HIV anti-stigmatisation messages through one-on-one and face-to-face education and HIV and AIDS education.
He stated that HIV prevention outreach events had been organised in the beneficiary areas, while over 60 peer educators within MARPs had been trained.
He added that 30 people had also been trained to reach out to out-of-school youth, long distance drivers and truck/cart pushers.
Mr Benarkuu said the workshop, which was organised by MIHOSO in collaboration with ADRA-Ghana, was to encourage community members to participate in the project to help combat HIV and AIDS.
He said the workshop was to build the capacities of some selected community-based organisations (CBOs), farmer-based organisations (FBOs) and civil society organisation (CSOs), as well as community representatives.
Mr Benarkuu said the project’s target for the next quarter was to intensify HIV counselling and testing, mobilise more CSOs/FBOs into CCE training to undertake stigmatisation reduction activities and reach out to more communities with anti-stigmatisation messages.
Mr Benarkuu said the project would also promote the adoption of safer sexual practices in the general population, promote healthy behaviours and safer sexual practices among PLHIV, MARPs and vulnerable groups.
He said it would also promote the mother-to-child and safe blood transmission and strengthen the institutional capacity and community system for scaling up HIV and AIDS, Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI) and Tuberculosis (TB) services.
Mr Benarkuu said in order to achieve those objectives, male and female condoms would be distributed freely to MARPs, vulnerable groups and the general population, adding it would also register PLHIV with the National Health Insurance (NHIS) to increase their access to health services, including the management of infections.
He stated that the project would help strengthen and expand PMTCT services and early infant diagnosis, provide STI prevention packages and increase referral system for STI diagnosis and treatment.