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The First Lady Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo is optimistic that a successful execution of the National Acceleration Plan for Paediatric HIV Services would fast track the implementation of critical services and ensure that 90% of adolescents and children living with HIV receive treatment by 2020.

She was speaking at the 13th International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research in Resource-Limited Settings (INTEREST), opened on Tuesday 14th May, 2019, in Accra.

The four-day conference hinges on providing a wider knowledge base in the fields of treatment, pathogens, and prevention of HIV-1 and related infections and chronic conditions. And as well as share ideas on providing support to HIV testing services and the provision of clinical care to adults, adolescents and children living with HIV across Africa, in order to achieve the 90-90-90 HIV goals.

According to the First Lady, making available antiretroviral drugs to all HIV positive pregnant women, was a contributory factor to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission. She however, underscored the need to support these women to adhere to their medicines in order to prevent transmission to their babies.

Indicating that, “Every child born to an HIV positive mother should also be screened for HIV within the first six weeks of life and followed up according to national protocol. Any child who tests positive at any time, during the follow-up, should be initiated on antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible.”

On the backdrop of this, the Ghana Chapter of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), led by Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has been in collaboration with the Ghana AIDS Commission in organizing health outreaches to advocate for accelerated elimination of mother-to-child transmission through the National Acceleration Plan for Paediatric HIV Services.

She however, noted that, the implementation of Health Outreaches in Ghana to advocate for accelerated elimination of mother to child transmission during the 2018 World AIDS Day were successful enough to be used as a case study by ABOTT to get other countries to conduct similar outreaches.

“We launched the Free to Shine Campaign, in January this year with the objective to accelerate the pace of elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, end AIDS in children and keep mothers alive and healthy,” She indicated.

She stated that, whilst there was remarkable progress against HIV reduction in related deaths, children were still left behind, where an estimation of 180,000 new infections among children occurred globally in 2017.

The First Lady emphasized that, “Majority of these new infections can be found in Africa, with West and Central Africa accounting for 21 per cent of new HIV infections and 30 per cent of global deaths. In the 2018 UNAIDS Report, Ghana had an estimated 3,400 new HIV infections in children under 14 years in 2017. Though this indicates a decline of 42 per cent since 2005, we need to accelerate our response if we have to eliminate HIV infection in children.”

Mrs. Akufo-Addo, called for improvements in family planning services, girl-child education and economic empowerment initiatives, which were likely to prevent teenage and unplanned pregnancies and HIV.

Saying that, “Pregnant women who are HIV negative early in the pregnancy should be retested before delivery. This will ensure women who seroconvert and become HIV positive later in the pregnancy receive appropriate treatment.”

She however stated that, “I charge the Ghana Health Service, to have a reporting system that identifies every single infant who is infected with HIV. We need to understand whether the mother attended antenatal clinic, tested for HIV, was offered and adhered to antiretroviral drugs and practiced exclusive breastfeeding. This will fine tune our programme, as we move towards elimination of paediatric HIV.”

Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, seized the opportunity to emphasize that, there were several activities being planned by stakeholders in relation to this advocacy, which would be rolled out within this year.

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