HIV ambassador calls for inclusion of HIV treatment tests in NHIS

Rev John Azumah

HIV Ambassador, Rev. John Azumah of Heart to Heart Ambassadors campaign, says high cost of laboratory tests for HIV infected persons before treatment is affecting most patients from being put on antiretroviral drugs.

Government targets to achieve Agenda 90-90-90 by 2020. This means, 90% prevention, 90% treatment and 90% viral support for HIV patients. However, Rev. Azumah in an interview with TopNews Ghana in Tamale on the sidelines of a media interaction on HIV/AIDS organised by the Ghana Aids Commission, said the target may not be achieved if government does not include in the NHIS, costs of further laboratory tests often recommended by medical doctors before HIV/AIDS patients are put on antiretroviral drugs.

“Now, I am HIV [Positive], I tested and doctor says he can’t give me the medicine until he knows my entire laboratory [results] – the full blood count, the liver and the kidney. And now the labs are very expensive – Gh₵ 300, Gh₵ 350, Gh₵ 280 depending on the facility you go. The doctor says unless he sees the results, he cannot give you antiretroviral drug and because I can’t afford the money, I’m at home. We are denying lot of people who are supposed to be on treatment to benefit from the treatment because of the very expensive nature of the labs.”

So, our call is, government should scrap the money [laboratory charges] and enroll it into the National Health Insurance so that if I have my card, I should be able to access laboratory services. Government should do that. It is possible for government to do that if only they want to achieve the agenda 90-90-90 that they are preaching about.”

He, therefore, called on the government to absorbed cost of further laboratory in the NHIS to enable HIV patients who are not able to afford these charges, the opportunity to be put on the antiretroviral drug treatment.

Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of Ghana AIDS Commission, Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, who represented the Director-General of Ghana AIDS Commission, Ambassador Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyimfi, said the media interaction was the second of five such programmes designed to take place across the country this year. He said the commission and its partners instituted the programme to get first-hand information from media partners about their understanding of HIV and the challenges they encounter in reporting on related issues.

He acknowledged that the commission has been rewarded with good features and stories from the media. However, there had been some misreportage or misrepresentation of HIV in the news which has often caused unnecessary fear and anxiety in the public.

According to Mr. Kyeremeh, HIV management is dynamic and new strategies must be understood to be able to report effectively on them thus, the need for media practitioners to learn and use appropriate terminologies in reporting on the disease.