05/23/2013 10:08 am ET Updated Jul 23, 2013

The Big Push to Defeat HIV & AIDS in Ghana

In late 2002, Ghana became the first country to sign a Global Fund grant. This unique moment of partnership marked a historical turning point for how we behaved as global partners coming together to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, which had devastated the lives of so many of my fellow Ghanaians for too long.

A sick population cannot generate the productivity needed to maintain the acceleration of our economy. Through the war chest as Kofi Annan called it, the international community chose to make an investment in Ghana. It is an investment that is paying off.

Ghana is among the 29 African Countries reported by the WHO to have been able to reduce prevalence of HIV and AIDS over the past decade. The national HIV prevalence has declined from a national high of 3.6 percent in 2003 to 1.5 percent in 2010 and has stabilized since. Prevalence among persons 15-24 years has equally reduced from 3.5 percent in 2003 to 1.5 percent.

While we can be proud of our response, we must recognize that the main challenge in the fight against HIV and AIDS globally is how to ensure Universal Access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and to ensuring zero transmission of new HIV infections in children.

To be able to achieve these laudable goals, especially for us in sub-Saharan Africa, there is the need for us to invest in improving our weak health systems. The inadequate number of health care facilities in many of our countries is a major issue of concern. The rural poor living in remote areas and the poor in our urban slums are the most vulnerable to HIV infections and they are also the ones without access to treatment and care.

The goal of Universal Access to prevention, treatment care and support and to ensuring zero transmission of HIV in children may appear to be a daunting task. But it is achievable. The driving force for realization of this goal is the mobilization of resources for implementation.

The Global Fund has set a goal to raise $15 billion for 2014-2016, which I appeal to international donors to meet, so we can reach our ambitious but achievable targets.

Recognizing the commitment to defeating HIV and AIDS as a shared responsibility, and in the face of stiff competition for scarce budgetary resources, we (Ghana) have committed $75 million to finance the implementation of our National Response.

During these difficult economic times, there is no doubt a discernible sense of donor fatigue among the partners. But we can't let our guard down. We can't slacken our effort at this time. We need a Big Push to defeat this pandemic.

As an international community we share this dream. Mankind has faced daunting health challenges in the past, but standing together we have managed to overcome. We eradicated small pox. We have made significant progress in the fight to eradicate Polio.

In Ghana, we have reduced incidence of malaria in some districts by as much as 70 percent by distributing bed nets and undertaking residual spraying. We can beat HIV and AIDS. But we can do this only if we continue to act together and prioritize HIV and AIDS as a major health threat to our global survival.