General overview of AIDS epidemic 2007/08 with focus on Ghana

A 2007 epidemic update shows that while global HIV prevalence has remained stable since 2000, AIDS remains among the leading causes of death globally and primary cause of death in Africa after malaria. There were some improvements made to surveillance efforts which increased understanding of the epidemic and resulted in significant revisions to the estimates.

By the end of 2007, the estimated number of people living with HIV worldwide was 33.2million (30.6-36.1 million). The main reason for this reduction was the major correction of India's revised estimate derived from new data from an intensive exercise to assess the HIV epidemic. Significant downward revision of estimates for six other countries, notably in Sub-Sahara Africa also contributed to the reduced total.

Although prevalence has stabilized, continuing new infections (even at a reduced rate) contributed to the estimate number of people living with HIV. Prevalence tends to reduce slowly over time as new infections decline and through the death of HIV-infected people. It can increase through continuing HIV incidence and through mortality of HIV people on antiretroviral treatment.

Every day, some 7000 people become infected with HIV and more than 6000 people die from AIDS, mostly because of inadequate access to HIV prevention and treatment services. The HIV pandemic remains the most serious challenge to public health, especially in the developing nations with Sub-Saharan Africa the worst hit.


Hiv/Aids update in Sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on Ghana

Unprotected paid sex remains central to HIV transmission in most of West and Central Africa. The epidemic has spread unevenly across Ghana with prevalence among pregnant women attending antenatal clinic from a low of 1.4% in the Northern Region to as high as 5.1% in the Eastern Region. Prevalence of 3.6% was found among pregnant women in the Greater Accra Region (Ministry of health, Ghana, 2007).

Variable HIV infection trends are apparent in Ghana where, in 2006, an estimate of 2.5 of adults were living with HIV (National AIDS Control Programme Ghana 2007). Median HIV prevalence among women attending antenatal clinic in Ghana has ranged between 2.6% and 4.3% between 2000-2006. Significant declines in antenatal attendees were noted in Cape Coast and Adabraka between 2003-2006. However, among consistently sentinel web-sites in the country, HIV prevalence has remained around 3.5% between 2001-2006 (Ministry of Health Ghana 2007). The lack of decline in prevalence could be explained by HIV infection trends among young people in urban areas. Women aged 15-25 years accounted for almost a third (32%) of all HIV infections recorded in antenatal clinic survey of  2006. Prevalence in this age group rose from 2.1% in 2005 to 2.7% in 2006. This could be a reflection of an increase in HIV incidence since infections in that age group are likely to have been acquired relatively recently.

These data emphasize the need to strengthen prevention efforts that focus especially on young Ghanaians. Ghana Union and other  national organizations must work harder to educate, inform and insist on the use of the condoms at any casual sexual involvement.

The work of the Ghana Union in Sweden in spreading information about preventive measures against HIV/AIDS will have a very positive impact on the reduction of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) both in Sweden and among Ghanaians in and out of Ghana and Sweden.

Suberu Salam

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