Include HIV Fund In Budget – GHANET

THE LEADERSHIP of the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), Network of Persons Living with HIV (NAP+) and Civil Society Networks has called on President Nana Akufo-Addo and the First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo to ensure that funds are allocated for the National HIV and AIDS Fund in the 2023 budget.

The groups said the allocation of funds by the Finance Ministry in the budget would make the Fund, which has been dormant since its establishment in 2016, active.

“According to Act 938 (section 22), the Minister is the only government functionary clothed with the mandate to activate the National HIV and AIDS Fund. We therefore call on the Minister of Finance to, unfailingly, include the activation of the Fund in the 2023 Appropriation Bill that would be sent to Parliament in the next few days,” President of GHANET, Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, said.

He said the groups acknowledged the challenges of fiscal space the government was faced with, with respect to the national budget for 2023, however, the rates of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the country were such that the activation of the Fund had become a national emergency, ‘that can no longer wait’.

Mr. Amoabeng Ortsin indicated that the time was ripe for the President, who was the Chairman of the Governing Board of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and the First Lady, who was the face of the “Free to Shine” campaign in Ghana, under the auspices of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), to ensure resources are available for the national response.

“There is no way we can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and end AIDS by 2030 if we do not activate the Fund,” he said.

In 2016 the government, in responding to the dwindling inflow of donor funds took a decision to establish the National HIV and AIDS Fund.
This was intended to domestically generate resources to undergird the national response.

During the amendment of the Ghana AIDS Commission Act, 2016 (Act 938) provision was made for the establishment of the Fund. Subsequently, a Legislative Instrument (LI 2403) was enacted to regulate the operation of the Fund.

Increased Infections
According to the National AIDS/STI Control Programme (NACP), new HIV infections in the last five years have averaged 19,000 per year.
The number of AIDS-related deaths in the last five years have also averaged 14,000 per year.

Mr. Amoabeng Ortsin attributed the increasing number of cases and AIDS related deaths to the reduced HIV education and sensitisation activities.

“For more than a decade now, all the HIV and AIDS education and sensitizations that we used to see in our schools, workplaces, churches, mosques, markets, lorry stations, local communities and the media have all ceased; for the simple reason that there are no resources to undertake such campaigns,” he said. “It therefore comes as no surprise that adolescent girls and young women accounted for 20 percent of total new infections in the year 2021.”

He said there are 350,000 persons living with HIV made up of over 250,000 adults and over 12,000 children who are currently surviving on anti-retroviral medications.

The groups also appealed to Development Partners (DPs), particularly the Global Fund, UNAIDS, WHO, PEPFAR/USAID to use their influence in the country to support their call for the government to activate the National HIV and AIDS Fund.

“We call on Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders, Worker Unions, Students, Traders to support this campaign. We must all hold our hands together and call on the government to activate the National HIV and AIDS Fund in the 2023 Appropriation Bill,” Mr. Amoabeng Ortsin stressed.

BY Jamila Akweley Okertchiri