HIV cases surge amongst pregnant women in Ghana - NACP study finds

The National AIDS/STI Control Programme (NACP) has revealed that there has been a surge in HIV cases among pregnant women in the country.

According to the NACP, the menace is attributable to the increased confidence in infertility among persons living with HIV.

The Manager of NACP, Stephen Ayisi Addo, who made the revelation noted that Data analysis in a Sentinel Survey conducted in 2020 revealed that women who had been pregnant more than once had a higher prevalence compared to first pregnancies partly because of their confidence that they could have healthy babies.

The study, he noted, further showed that prevalence among general Antenatal Care (ANC) clients was two per cent and among those with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis among others was ten per cent in 2020.

Data from the HIV Estimates and AIDS Projections report also revealed that 5,200 new infections of HIV were recorded in children 0-14 out of a total population of about 19,000 in 2020 and out of the number, 82 per cent were females including pregnant women.

Since the first case of HIV in 1986, there were currently 346,120 people leaving with HIV as of the end of 2020, with 66 per cent of the figure being females and about eight per cent children aged 0-14.

Dr Ayisi Addo, speaking at the seventh edition of the Stakeholder Engagement and Worker Appreciation Seminar” organised by the Tema Regional Office of the Ghana News Agency said, hitherto, persons who tested positive and became pregnant, assumed that their babies would become automatically positive often leading to the abandonment of the babies.

He said HIV suppressed fertility, and persons who tested positive and were not on treatment had their fertility robustness reduced as a result of the viral effect, adding that with treatment, “some persons were delivering healthy twins.”

“Because of the elimination of mother to child transmission programme where certain interventions are given to a positive mother to prevent transmission to baby, they are giving birth to more negative babies, which is good for the HIV control Programme,” he said.

He, however, indicated that that confidence and assuredness was making persons living with HIV think then that, they could have more babies, and once that happened, the risk of reinfection and new transmission to partners remained.

He reiterated that the risk still persisted because transmission could occur during conception, labour and delivery and during breastfeeding, and said if the woman was not adherent to medications, it could lead to an even higher risk of transmission to babies.

He stated that to deal with the disturbing trend, family planning services and education must be intensified to prevent unintended pregnancies among persons living with HIV, and the need to empower vulnerable females to be more assertive in dealing with potential sources of infection.

In lowering the trend further, he said NACP was working with collaborative agencies, the Ministries of Gender and Social Protection, Education and Health to empower them to be free from HIV, and emphasised that “when you take emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, it does not deal with STIs and HIV as it only prevents pregnancy.”

Dr Ayisi Addo explained that “the face of HIV has changed positively because of treatment but in ensuring that people live normal lives and not think HIV is no longer an issue and be careless and spread it, education must be intensified.”

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